Congo builds mausoleum for colonial master
The remains of one of the few white colonists still held in regard in Africa were reinterred on Tuesday in a glass and marble mausoleum in the city named after him, Brazzaville.
The body of the Franco-Italian explorer Pierre de Brazza was exhumed in Algeria last week and flown to the capital of the Congo for Tuesday’s ceremony attended by three African presidents and the French foreign minister.
De Brazza’s coffin, draped in the French flag, and those of his wife and four children were laid to rest at the site on the Congo river where he established the colony and served as its governor in the late 19th century.
Many African cities were quickly stripped of the names of colonisers after independence. But Brazzaville was an exception and the Congo government said it wanted to honour De Brazza for his work against slavery and his criticism of the abuse of African workers by Europeans.
“What interests us here is the humanitarian dimension of De Brazza, his fight against slavery and the abuses and excesses of export companies during the colonial period,” said the Presidency Minister, Charles Bowao.
But opposition leaders and human rights groups said it was a mistake to construct a $2,3-million monument to one of the country’s colonisers. “We cannot believe that a country which is saying that it is poor has spent so much money to build a memorial, a costly memorial for a former colonialist,” said Eugene Sama, leader of the opposition Rally for Democracy and Development.
De Brazza, born in Italy and named Pietro but naturalised as French, beat Henry Morton Stanley, King Leopold of Belgium’s envoy, in the race to capture the mineral-rich lands of what became the French Congo.
In 1880, De Brazza persuaded King Makoko of the Batekes to place his lands along the Congo river under French protection.
Descendants of both families were present on Tuesday. De Brazza served as governor of the French Congo for 12 years. His relatively benevolent administration stood in stark contrast to Belgian rule on the other side of the Congo river where Africans were hunted, killed and mutilated.
De Brazza left French Congo in 1898 but in 1905, on a final visit shortly before his death, he wrote a report detailing forced labour and brutal punishment of Africans by European companies. His report was buried by the government in Paris.
De Brazza died suddenly in September 1905 in Dakar, in present-day Senegal. He was 53. The epitaph on his grave in Algeria read: “A memory untainted by human blood.” - Guardian Unlimited Â