'“Why would a Belgian royal risk his life to save a Congolese wilderness?” reads a somehow unironic headline in the Times Magazine this weekend. The question is posed alongside an introduction to Belgium's Prince Emmanuel de Merode.
According to the profile, de Merode is “battling to preserve the Virunga National Park – and the people and animals who live there.” The story follows de Merode’s conservation efforts in the eastern Congo where the royal is leading the redevelopment of Virunga’s internal infrastructure, including the costly construction of a two-mile canal and a series of hydroelectric plants.
Referring to de Merode’s “staggering ambition” for the country’s power grid, the article reads: “For this plant alone has raised $22million, plus $12million for a 250-mile network to distribute its electricity to three towns on Virunga’s border.”
The piece includes dazzling tales of de Merode evading machine gun fire while flying his Cessna jet over territories held by militiamen, his battle to defeat poachers targeting endangered animals and his “visionary” bid to remake the region.
But given the brutal history of the Belgian monarchy in the Congo, and the historic transfer of wealth out of the country to its rulers in Europe, some readers quickly declared the piece not only tone deaf, but also a stunning display of ignorance.'
Read more: The Times hails Belgian royal’s conservation of the Congo – a place ravaged by Belgian royals
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