Maxwell Graham

Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys

Emperor Ro: Report of a Coup in Belgium

September 10 - October 16, 2021

Press Release


All Images



12 December 1990: powerful jammers force all radio and TV stations off the air. Radio masts and some broadcasting stations are blown up. The population is left in silence until, after half an hour, some light is thrown on the situation. A message is broadcast on all radio and TV stations to the effect that the country is now under the authority of new rulers. Democracy is immediately suspended. The legislative, executive and judiciary as well as the military are in the hands of the newly crowned Emperor Ro. The population becomes terribly confused as to the veracity of this coup and initially undertakes nothing, but it soon appears that the new emperor is in earnest. Innocent people are chased out of their homes and shot dead or deported to an unknown destination. Others are picked up, questioned and tortured at length so as to extract absurd confessions. Eminent, universally respected politicians do not escape a similar fate. Airports and motorways are blocked and a series of absurd economic measures, such as declaring the national currency worthless, plunge the country into unprecedented chaos. But the new regime is not only characterised by negative and destructive policies. Other nationals are elevated for obscure or non-existent reasons into the nobility, while cripples and lunatics are appointed to high-ranking positions and animals are freed from meadows and parks. The reckless way in which Emperor Ro sets to work generates anarchy among the population. Pockets of resistance surface here and there, but the collapse of communication channels and the tremendous confusion that reigns mean they do not stand a chance. No one knows exactly who to resist since the imperial army is indistinguishable from the ordinary population. It is clear that international leaders see the global order begin to suffer after a few days. The speed and brutality with which Emperor Ro seized power characterise his downfall too. Tanks and aeroplanes of an international armed force take less than an hour to terminate the rule of Emperor Ro. The putschists see their end approach. Some break down and die. Emperor Ro and his last supporters retreat to a villa in the country. Heavy artillery fire forces them to surrender. A few days later, when peace has returned to the country, they are tried by a national court of law in Ledeberg. What remains are documents and pictures that can give us a vague idea of Emperor Ro’s ideology and what the consequences would have been if the coup had succeeded.


ROTV1 was the war channel where viewers could closely follow all military actions of the regime. The battles of Leuven and Ronse were discussed extensively, as well as reports on the notorious ‘Sector 4’, which were mainly intended to instil fear. Interesting to note is also the report on the arrest and execution of state comedian Guido De Belder, who fell from grace after telling a bad joke on his show ‘Guido’s Evening’, which aired daily on ROTV3, the humour channel. ROTV3 was, in fact, Emperor Ro’s favourite channel. In the presence of a few loyalists, Emperor Ro would then – despite the urgency of other matters – be glued to the screen for hours and often could not stop laughing.

Whereas Emperor Ro primarily used ROTV1 to toy with the feelings of the people, ROTV2 had a business-like, informal character. This fitted perfectly into Emperor Ro’s vision of the mass mobilisation of his population. Twenty-four hours a day, the people were informed of what awaited them, by way of interminable lists of names. The lists of names on blue backgrounds indicated those who had to report immediately to Emperor Ro’s army. On the lists with green backgrounds, people could read where they had to report. If anyone saw their name on the red-coloured screen, they knew they were to be executed. It was therefore essential that everyone who was part of the new empire regularly checked this network. Any resistance – or indeed simple ignorance – was inevitably punished by the bullet.

ROTV 1: News Channel

ROTV 1: News Channel

ROTV 2: Info Channel

ROTV 2: Info Channel

ROTV 3: Humor Channel

ROTV 3: Humor Channel


Johnny S.: Minister of Thickness and Thinness
Maggy Kap: Head of Sector 4
Mr. Poulet: Minister of Charleroi
Mr. Backx: Minister of Food Supply
Mr. Ferio: Bomb Expert
Mr. Duchateau: Minister of Ceramics
Emperor Ro
Mr. Vandermosten: Head of the new Philosophy
Mr Bultinckx: Minister of War
Mr. Mariën: Minister of Mechanics
Danny Apers: Minister of State Security
Mr. Vermeyil: Commander of the Elite Troops
Mr. Vervloet: Minister of the vertebrate Animals


Very little is known about Emperor Ro’s background. He grew up in Marilles, outside Jodoinge, where his father had a small farming business. His love of the animal kingdom was evident at a very early age, and manifested itself in an obsession with cataloguing everything associated with it. The young Ro had piles of books and prints, and built up an impressive collection of dried insects. When he was 13, his father and brother were killed in a fire that destroyed the entire farm and all of Ro’s collections. His mother went mad and died a few years later in an institution. For Ro, who was 16 at the time, it was the beginning of long years of wanderings around the whole world. He worked on ships as a seaman, and survived a shipwreck that left him and his mates stranded in West Africa. Here, once again in his own way, he studied the local flora and fauna and the behaviour of the people. He experimented with homemade bombs and new forms of authority, which he applied amongst small groups of nomads. When he was around 24, he returned to Europe, where he joined a sect of anarchists in the Scottish highlands, comprised of retired professors and generals. It was here that the foundation was laid for the coup that he would carry out a few years later in our own region.


This desk was discovered in one of the secret cellars of a badly battered villa in the neighbourhood of Jodoigne. Following the advice of experts and witness reports, including those of Commander Geerinckx and General Versmissen, it was restored to its original condition. It was probably from behind this desk that Emperor Ro meticulously prepared his coup, as we see from the stacks of personal notes and the telephones. It is claimed that, because of the intensity of his work and his great sense of responsibility, Emperor Ro refused to leave his desk except for lightning fast visits to the front. His entire staff regularly came to report on the most recent fighting or to take new orders.

Witness reports also indicate that General Versmissen was one of his most frequent and trusted visitors. In addition to Emperor Ro and General Versmissen’s official meetings, they also philosophised until late in the night about the animals, plants and rocks that Emperor Ro so admired.

The white monkey was a gift from his brother on the day he was born, and was his closest friend during his entire life. In addition, note the packages of Cha-Cha’s and the Fanta bottle, which were Emperor Ro’s only nourishment for days and nights on end. Via the cassette player, we can listen to a telephone conversation that Emperor Ro had with Commander Duval about the encirclement of the city of Ronse.


“It is my wish that the cities of Aalst, Bekkevoort, Ronse, Charleroi and Dendermonde be attacked, and that all houses and people be destroyed by bombing.”

“All animals with fur thicker than five centimetres, such as bears, hamsters, sheep and certain dogs will be moved to the northern areas of the empire. All animals with fur shorter than this, such as foals, oxen and small birds will be moved to the southern areas.”


– Hello, Emperor Ro.
– Hello, General Durant speaking. Well Your Majesty, I have just
returned from the front of Ronse and I can assure you,
the whole village is bombed.
– How many died?
– Well Your Majesty, we executed a total of 4,320 people. 1,335
others have been taken in for questioning.
– OK.
– Yes Majesty, the question is now: how many of them shall I
send to Sector 4?
– Shoot them all!
– OK. Your Majesty, I will give the order for execution.
– OK.
– Yes Your Majesty, thank you and with pleasure.


“It is my wish that the cities of Aalst, Bekkevoort, Ronse, Charleroi and Dendermonde be attacked, and that all houses and people be destroyed by bombing.”

“All animals with fur thicker than five centimetres, such as bears, hamsters, sheep and certain dogs will be moved to the northern areas of the empire. All animals with fur shorter than this, such as foals, oxen and small birds will be moved to the southern areas.”


The VUBO – 53 HAV (VuurBOmmer/Fire Bomber) was constructed in collaboration with Commander Teurlinckx, on the orders of Emperor Ro and according to his design, for strikes against houses, automobiles and rebels. According to engineers, it had a range of over three kilometres and a high degree of precision.

The power of this fire bomber was proportional to the amount of explosives thrust into the barrel. To improve accuracy, a second barrel was added (see the model on view). An added bonus of the VUBO – 53 HAV was that it could easily be transported in an automobile and attached directly to the vehicle’s battery. In all, Emperor Ro had 350 of these fire bombers built, but with the exception of a number of clever new techniques, it turned out not to be really suitable for battle. Most of the machines were only about ten metres away from their targets. Several of the VUBO’s also exploded, because soldiers did not know precisely how to operate them, or they had manufacturing faults.


At the time of Emperor’s Ro reign, the basement of a hospital in Aalst was converted into an interrogation and torture centre, better known as Sector 4. Those who were brought there knew that it would be their end. The procedure was always the same: an hour-long brutal interrogation by Maggy Kap, a gymnastics teacher from Nieuwerkerke, who was only too happy to unleash her sadistic fantasies on her victims. She was soon nicknamed ‘The Machete’.

This was always followed by a short visit to Dr. Kipler, a German psychopathic dentist, who had offered his services to Emperor Ro in the early hours of the coup, “to address the root of the problems”, which he did rather literally because he loved nothing more than pulling teeth. It was even claimed that he bit some of his victims to death.

Displayed in the vitrine are some ‘tools’ that were found in Sector 4.