Australia strips Belgium's 'evil tyrant' Leopold from name of mountains

Statues of Leopold II have been burnt, removed and vandalised in Belgium. PHOTO: AFP

MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - Australia has renamed its King Leopold mountain ranges Wunaamin Miliwundi, replacing the name of a Belgian ruler known for his brutal colonisation of Africa with traditional names used by indigenous people.

The state of Western Australia has debated changing the name of the mountains for nearly a decade, and finally made the decision in the midst of global protests against racism.

"It has troubled me for years that an extraordinary area of Western Australia should be named in honour of a person who is widely regarded as an evil tyrant and with no connection to our state," Western Australia Aboriginal affairs minister Ben Wyatt said in a statement.

The new name combines names by which the Ngarinyin and Bunuba traditional owners have long called the ranges, which lie in the western Kimberley region in the north of the state.

"It's important to acknowledge and promote the long history of the Aboriginal peoples' connection to this land, and the proud place it takes in Western Australia's shared history," Wyatt said.

The ranges were named in 1879 by Australian explorer Alexander Forrest in honour of Belgium's then monarch, King Leopold II, who later declared what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo his personal property.

Millions of Congolese are estimated to have died under his rule between 1885 and 1908.

Statues of Leopold II have been burnt, removed and vandalised in Belgium amid worldwide demonstrations that followed the killing of George Floyd, a black man held by police in the US state of Minnesota, on May 25.

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