Denbigh residents are set to vote on the future of the town's statue of explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley, who is thought to have killed hundreds of African people while securing the Congo for a Belgian king.

The vote on the statue, which is located outside the town library, will take place more than a year after it was promised.

Denbigh’s tribute to Stanley, fashioned in bronze by artist Nick Elphick, has been a talking point for a decade.

After a raft of racial justice protests last year, sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement, campaigners have called for the effigy of arguably the town’s most infamous son to be removed.

Denbigh Town Council, which commissioned the piece, held a meeting in June 2020 to discuss its future.

Members voted 6-5 to keep it.

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Mayor at the time of the debate, Cllr Gaynor Wood-Tickle, promised people in Denbigh a “democratic vote” and full public consultation on the matter.

From Friday 15th - Saturday 16th October locals will cast their votes.

The National Wales: HM Stanley was instrumental in creating the "Congo Free State", which is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for the brutal King Leopold II of BelgiumHM Stanley was instrumental in creating the "Congo Free State", which is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for the brutal King Leopold II of Belgium

Journalist and explorer HM Stanley is synonymous with the phrase “Dr Livingstone, I presume”, which he claims to have said after tracking down the lost Scottish explorer in central Africa.

Stanley, born John Rowlands, started life impoverished and fatherless in Denbigh in 1841 and was put into the Asaph workhouse in nearby St Asaph.

He emigrated to the United States as a teenager, where he reinvented himself.

After fighting in the American Civil war, Stanley became a journalist and then an explorer – finding the source of the Nile, mapping central Africa’s Great Lakes and also the borders of the present day Democratic Republic of Congo.

His work was instrumental in triggering the "scramble for Africa", which saw the violent colonization of the continent by European nations eager to plunder its resources.

Stanley established the "Congo Free State" for King Leopold II of Belgium, travelling the country persuading largely illiterate native rulers to sign away their land rights to the king.

His behaviour was considered particularly brutal even for his time, and he was known to kill indigenous people for even the smallest provocation. Fellow British explorer Richard Burton commented at the time that Stanley shot African people like they were animals.

The National Wales: Statues of King Leopold II have been taken down in Belgium after his descendants expressed remorse over the "acts of violence and cruelty” that took place in the Congo under his ruleStatues of King Leopold II have been taken down in Belgium after his descendants expressed remorse over the "acts of violence and cruelty” that took place in the Congo under his rule

One entry from Stanley's diary at the time describes an encounter with African villagers who laughed at him on his arrival: "The beach was crowded with infuriates and mockers...I opened on them with the Winchester Repeating Rifle.

"Six shots and four deaths were sufficient to quiet the mocking.”

Another describes his Black servants as "lying, thievish, indolent knaves, who only teach a man to despise himself for attempting a grand work with such miserable slaves."

More than 10million people in the Congo are thought to have been killed during King Leopold's 23-year colonisation - half of the country's entire population.

The region was rich in rubber, which was extracted for use in Europe through force.

Locals were made to meet steep rubber quotas, and failure to meet targets was punishable by death and other similarly horrific acts.

An account by missionary and documentary photographer, Alice Seeley Harris, who visited the country, describes appalling acts of inhumanity.

"He hadn’t made his rubber quota for the day so the Belgian-appointed overseers had cut off his daughter’s hand and foot," she writes of one man.

"Her name was Boali. She was five years old.

"Then they killed her."

Stanley's defenders say he was not working for the Belgian despot when the atrocities occurred, and he has been unfairly tainted.

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A statement from Denbigh Town Council read: "Due to the mass coverage of public statues of controversial historical figures last year the town council decided the decision whether the statue of H M Stanley remain or be removed, be the decision of the residents of Denbigh.

"Voting will take place in the Town Hall over two days. Friday October 15 between 10am and 7pm or Saturday October 16 between 10am and 1pm.

"Voting will be open to Denbigh residents aged 16 and above. You will need two forms of identification. One photo identification and one with your address on.

"If you are unable to attend or know of someone who can’t attend, please phone or text 07554679169 or email hmstanleystatue@mail.com by October 14th and we will arrange an alternative way to vote. If you are aged between 16 and 18 and are having difficulty in getting two forms of identification please get in touch.

"Once the votes have been counted and checked the town council will announce the outcome."

Additional reporting by Rebecca Wilks.

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