For One Colonial Ruler, Honor in His African Home (Congo)

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It’s not every day that an African country erects a 20-foot-tall statue in the busiest part of town to honor a white man.

But Brazzaville has always had a trend-defying relationship to its first master, Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza.

All across the continent, names that smacked of colonial rule were quickly jettisoned after independence. Leopoldville, the capital of the Belgian Congo named after King Leopold II, was renamed Kinshasa shortly after the country became Zaire. Delamere Street in Nairobi, Kenya, named after the head honcho of white settlers, Lord Delamere, became Kenyatta Avenue. And so on and so on.

But Brazzaville was an exception, because Mr. Brazza was actually liked by many Africans, who considered him a kinder, gentler Victorian explorer type, someone who charmed his way deep into the African jungle, unlike his rival, Henry Morton Stanley, whose shotgun and bullwhip approach earned him the nickname Breaker of Rocks.

When it came time to tell the Brazza tale, the government of Brazzaville decided to do it in style — building a gleaming white marble mausoleum along the banks of the Congo River, complete with a museum, sculpture garden and giant statue. The remains of Mr. Brazza and his wife and four children were flown back to Brazzaville, and in mid-December, the mausoleum is scheduled to open.

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