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Léon Rom
Portrait photograph of a young man wearing a military uniform with a prominent moustache
Portrait photograph of Rom
Born (1859-04-02)April 2, 1859
Mons, Belgium
Died January 30, 1924(1924-01-30) (aged 64)
Ixelles, Belgium
Nationality Belgian
Occupation Soldier, colonial official

Léon Auguste Théophile Rom (1859–1924) was a Belgian soldier and colonial official who became prominent in the administration of the Congo Free State during the late 19th century.


Rom was born to a poor family in Mons, Belgium, in 1859 and entered the Belgian Army at the age of 16. He subsequently worked as a customs official before leaving Belgium for the new Congo Free State in 1886 as one of the few hundred whites working in the colony's administration.

Receiving a series of rapid promotions, Rom commanded the station at Stanley Falls (now Boyoma Falls) and was eventually promoted District Commissioner of Matadi. He later transferred to the colonial military, the Force Publique, where he served as a captain. He was praised for his conduct during the Congo Arab War (1892–94) in which he personally negotiated the surrender of an Arab stronghold. After retiring from the Force Publique, he worked as an official for the Compagnie du Kasai in central Congo.

Rom became most famous for the alleged brutality of his administration in the Stanley Falls area. According to contemporary reports from white missionaries, Rom had used the severed heads of 21 Congolese to decorate the flower beds of his house at Stanley Falls. He is also said to have kept a gallows permanently in place at his station. As the literary scholar Peter Edgerly Firchow argued, however, displaying severed heads was not unusual in contemporary Central African society:

Hideous, symbolic, and even real as all this is, this [act]...must nevertheless also be viewed and interpreted from the perspective of Central African tribal customs. For in terms of the Congo at the close of the nineteenth century, what Kurtz did (and Rom after him) was entirely in the bounds of privilege accorded to tribal chiefs.

Still working for the Compagnie du Kasai, Rom died in Brussels in 1924.

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