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Tue Feb 12, 2019, 12:36 AM

UN: Belgium must apologize for colonialism, face its racism

Source: Associated Press

Raf Casert, Associated Press
Updated 12:26 pm CST, Monday, February 11, 2019

BRUSSELS (AP) — Racial discrimination against Africans "is endemic" in Belgium's institutions and the nation needs to apologize for the crimes committed during its colonization of Congo and make reparations, U.N. experts said Monday.

Belgium's actions in Congo have long been criticized as one of the worst examples of colonial abuse. Writer Adam Hochschild alleged in his 1998 book "King Leopold's Ghost" that Leopold reigned over the mass deaths of millions of Congolese.

"The root causes of present-day human rights violations lie in the lack of recognition of the true scope of the violence and injustice of colonization," the U.N. Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent said in an interim report on Belgium.

King Leopold's reign over Congo from 1885 to 1908 was notorious for its brutality. After Leopold handed over Congo to the Belgian state, the tiny nation continued to hold sway over an area 80 times its size half a world away until Congo became independent in 1960.

Read more: https://www.chron.com/news/world/article/UN-experts-say-Belgium-needs-to-apologize-for-13607331.php

Belgium confronts its colonial demons
Historians will investigate charges of Congo genocide

Andrew Osborn in Brussels
Thu 18 Jul 2002 08.22 EDT

More than a century after King Leopold II of Belgium claimed Congo as his personal colony, an unprecedented investigation into his country's murky colonial past and long-ignored allegations of genocide is to be carried out.
Doubtless to the fury of Belgium's dwindling band of "old colonials", the state-funded Royal Museum for Central Africa - formerly known as the Museum of the Belgian Congo - has commissioned some of the country's most eminent historians to give the public the one thing they have been deprived of for so long: the truth.

Shocking claims - often well documented - that 10 million Congolese were either murdered or worked to death by Leopold's private army, that women were systematically raped, that people's hands were cut off and that the local populace endured kidnapping, looting and village burnings, have never been the subject of serious debate in Belgium, let alone brought an apology.


~ ~ ~

Wikipedia: Atrocities in the Congo Free State

In the period from 1885 to 1908, many well-documented atrocities were perpetrated in the Congo Free State (today the Democratic Republic of the Congo) which, at the time, was a colony under the personal rule of King Leopold II of Belgium. These atrocities were sometimes collectively referred to by European contemporaries as the "Congo Horrors", and were particularly associated with the labour policies used to collect natural rubber for export. Together with epidemic disease, famine, and a falling birth rate caused by these disruptions, the atrocities contributed to a sharp decline in the Congolese population. The magnitude of the population fall over the period is disputed, but it is thought to be between one and fifteen million people.

At the Berlin Conference of 1884–85, the European powers allocated the Congo Basin region to a private charitable organisation run by Leopold II, who had long held ambitions for colonial expansion. The territory under Leopold's control exceeded 2,600,000 km2 (1,000,000 sq mi) and, amid financial problems, was ruled by a tiny cadre of white administrators drawn from across Europe. Initially, the colony proved unprofitable and insufficient, with the state always close to bankruptcy. The boom in demand for natural rubber, which was abundant in the territory, created a radical shift in the 1890s—to facilitate the extraction and export of rubber, all "uninhabited" land in the Congo was nationalised, with the majority distributed to private companies as concessions. Some was kept by the state. Between 1891 and 1906, the companies were allowed to do whatever they wished with almost no judicial interference, the result being that forced labour and violent coercion were used to collect the rubber cheaply and maximise profit. A native paramilitary army, the Force Publique, was also created to enforce the labour policies. Individual workers who refused to participate in rubber collection could be killed and entire villages razed. Individual white administrators were also free to indulge their own sadism.

Despite these atrocities, the main cause of the population decline was disease. A number of pandemics, notably African sleeping sickness, smallpox, swine influenza, and amoebic dysentery, ravaged indigenous populations. In 1901 alone it was estimated that 500,000 Congolese had died from sleeping sickness. Disease, famine and violence combined to reduce the birth-rate while excess deaths rose.

The severing of workers' hands achieved particular international notoriety. These were sometimes cut off by Force Publique soldiers who were made to account for every shot they fired by bringing back the hands of their victims. These details were recorded by Christian missionaries working in the Congo and caused public outrage when they were made known to the public in the United Kingdom, Belgium, the United States and elsewhere. An international campaign against the Congo Free State began in 1890 and reached its apogee after 1900 under the leadership of the British activist E. D. Morel. In 1908, as a result of international pressure, the Belgian government annexed the Congo Free State to form the Belgian Congo, and ended many of the systems responsible for the abuses. The size of the population decline during the period is the subject of extensive historiographical debate, and there is an open debate as to whether the atrocities constitute genocide.[1][2] Neither the Belgian monarchy nor the Belgian state have ever apologised for the atrocities.


Graphic photos of the Belgian reign of terror, in google images:

Belgian atrocities Congo

Clearly, the charges are valid. I'm glad the truth is FINALLY being more recognized outside Africa.

18 replies, 1622 views

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Feb 12, 2019, 12:55 AM

1. you can say the same thing about other colonial powers

even america, who didn’t have land in africa, extended slavery to the point where it had to be stopped by force, decades later. i hope this is the start of acknowledging of what happened and reparations and a apology for what happened.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Feb 12, 2019, 12:58 AM

2. Leopold was a monster who should be treated like Hitler and Pol Pot

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Response to dalton99a (Reply #2)

Tue Feb 12, 2019, 02:19 PM

13. 100% agree, and I don't know how he gets a pass

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Feb 12, 2019, 01:00 AM

3. Obscure UN "working group" isn't the UN



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Response to GatoGordo (Reply #3)

Tue Feb 12, 2019, 01:11 AM

4. I just looked it up, and you are totally wrong.

Last edited Tue Feb 12, 2019, 01:56 AM - Edit history (1)

Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent

Historical Background

The World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in Durban in 2001, adopted the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Paragraph 7 of the Durban Programme of Action specifically "requests the Commission on Human Rights to consider establishing a working group or other mechanism of the United Nations to study the problems of racial discrimination faced by people of African descent living in the African Diaspora and make proposals for the elimination of racial discrimination against people of African descent".

The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent was established in 2002 by the Commission on Human Rights resolution 2002/68 (as a Special Procedure). The mandate was subsequently renewed by the Commission on Human Rights and the Human Rights Council in its resolutions (CHR 2003/30, 2008/HRC/RES/9/14, In 2008, Human Rights Council resolution 9/14 entrusted the Working Group:

(a) To study the problems of racial discrimination faced by people of African descent living in the diaspora and, to that end, gather all relevant information from Governments, non-governmental organizations and other relevant sources, including through the holding of public meetings with them;

(b) To propose measures to ensure full and effective access to the justice system by people of African descent;

(c) To submit recommendations on the design, implementation and enforcement of effective measures to eliminate racial profiling of people of African descent;

(d) To make proposals on the elimination of racial discrimination against Africans and people of African descent in all parts of the world;

(e) To address all the issues concerning the well-being of Africans and people of African descent contained in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action;

(f) To elaborate short-, medium- and long-term proposals for the elimination of racial discrimination against people of African descent, bearing in mind the need for close collaboration with international and development institutions and the specialized agencies of the United Nations system to promote the human rights of people of African descent through, inter alia, the following activities:

(i) Improving the human rights situation of people of African descent by devoting special attention to their needs through, inter alia, the preparation of specific programmes of action;
(ii) Designing special projects, in collaboration with people of African descent, to support their initiatives at the community level and to facilitate the exchange of information and technical know-how between these populations and experts in these areas;
(iii) Liaising with financial and developmental institutional and operational programmes and specialized agencies of the United Nations, with a view to contribute to the development programmes intended for people of African descent by allocating additional investments to health systems, education, housing, electricity, drinking water and environmental control measures and promoting equal opportunities in employment, as well as other affirmative or positive measures and strategies within the human rights framework.


"Obscure UN "working group" isn't the UN


Because you don't know anything about it doesn't qualify this UN group as "obscure." Shameful.

Why would you have felt compelled to attack my post? There wasn't a thing about it one would expect someone to try to repudiate.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Reply #4)

Tue Feb 12, 2019, 02:22 AM

6. I think it's not unreasonable to make a distinction between "a UN working group" and "the UN."

It's a minor quibble, but there's at least room for debate on that particular point.

What I don't understand is why you're interpreting that post as an attack on you personally, and responding with an attack of your own, in addition to assuming what he/she does and doesn't know.

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Response to Jedi Guy (Reply #6)

Response to Judi Lynn (Reply #4)

Tue Feb 12, 2019, 11:55 AM

10. Your post is misleading.


A working group isn't an entity.

If a working group within the Democratic Party suggests a platform change, does that mean the Democratic Party embraces such change?

As far as King Leopold is concerned, he was a scumbag of the highest order. Rightly vilified. But he was a king, not an elected official. Ergo, his vile antics hardly reflect the culpability of the people of Belgium. They didn't elect him. God ordained him.

Now, if you want to talk culpability, perhaps "elected" despots such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao... these nations can and should be held to that standard? Responsible for the deaths of over 100,000,000 people and the misery of billions of others is pretty grievous.

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Response to GatoGordo (Reply #10)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 01:19 AM

17. Sorry, your post doesn't make a bit of sense to me.

You're trying to say too much and didn't find a way to focus it. It's a collection of words.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Reply #17)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 01:31 AM

18. Par for the course


Is everyone who disagrees with you uninformed or willfully ignorant?

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Feb 12, 2019, 01:57 AM

5. I just watched a Parts Unknown rerun last night and

Tony Bourdain discussed this. I learned so much from him and miss him still/always.

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Response to BigmanPigman (Reply #5)

Tue Feb 12, 2019, 02:46 AM

8. Ditto, saw that, and more recently about Belgium.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Feb 12, 2019, 09:04 AM

9. A few other countries got some explaining to do.

Netherlands, England, Spain, France, Portugal, Germany, not all innocent of exploiting Africans. There are probably more.

Belgium gave us "Heart of Darkness", so maybe that's why they're singled out. The horror.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Feb 12, 2019, 12:35 PM

11. I read about this twenty years ago.

Until I did, I just thought Belgium was this bland, boring, inoffensive country that makes great waffles and chocolate.

I was horrified by their colonial history. But they seem to be improving in their approach to ethnic diversity, while we go backwards. I guess Trump is our Leopold II.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Feb 12, 2019, 02:11 PM

12. Remember King Leopold? Genocide, Racism, Slavery and the Influence of Belgium in the DRC

December 3, 2013

. . .

He “bought” it and enslaved its people, turning the entire country into his own personal slave plantation.

He disguised his business transactions as “philanthropic” and “scientific” efforts under the banner of the International African Society.

He used their enslaved labor to extract Congolese resources and services. His reign was enforced through work camps, body mutilations, torture, executions, and his own private army.

Most of us aren’t taught about him in school. We don’t hear about him in the media.

He’s not part of the widely-repeated narrative of oppression (which includes things like the Holocaust during World War II). He’s part of a long history of colonialism, imperialism, slavery, and genocide in Africa that would clash with the social construction of a white supremacist narrative in our schools.

It doesn’t fit neatly into school curriculums in a capitalist society. Making overtly racist remarks is (sometimes) frowned upon in ‘polite’ society; but it’s quite fine not to talk about genocide in Africa perpetrated by European capitalist monarchs.1

Mark Twain wrote a satire about Leopold called “King Leopold’s Soliloquy; A Defense of His Congo Rule”, where he mocked the King’s defense of his reign of terror, largely through Leopold’s own words.


~ ~ ~

Leopold II Of Belgium
Episode #1 of the course Deadliest dictators in history

King Leopold II of Belgium (1835–1909) ruled for over 40 years. For 20 years, he “owned” the Free State of Congo in central Africa, a 3,000-square-mile section of resource-rich interior jungle and savannah. Leopold’s private police force, the Force Publique, terrorized and exploited Congo, largely in secrecy. Congolese people were blackmailed into working; they were often raped, tortured, and maimed. It is estimated that 10 million people—about half of the country’s population at the time—died during Leopold’s reign.

. . .

Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria and King Leopold II of Belgium, who was in the process of turning the Belgian Congo into a horrible slave colony that would make him unimaginably rich.
Credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-00915. Foto: o.Ang. 1 Dezember 1924.

European agents were assigned a daily rubber quota, and if the order was not met, the agent lost pay and benefits. In order to maintain quotas, agents used brute terrorism to force people to work. Congolese people were captured and forced into labor under torturous conditions. A man’s family or relatives might be kidnapped, beaten, and held hostage while he was sent to the rubber forests. If the man did not return with enough rubber, his kin was often raped, tortured, or maimed. Belgian agents were ordered to avoid “wasting” bullets on executions, so instead they chopped off Congolese people’s hands and preserved them as trophies of their “thriftiness” and “protection of resources.” Disembodied hands were also used to intimidate and threaten the Congolese people. Even the hands of children.

In addition to the murder, disease epidemics destroyed Congo’s populations. For over a decade, the mutilations and murders were largely covered up. Very few missionaries were allowed in Congo and on only the strictest of conditions.

According to the World History Archives, in 1890, a clerk at a British shipping line, Edmund Dene Morel, noticed that rubber and ivory came out of Congo, but nothing went in except soldiers and guns. He began a campaign in Britain to expose Leopold’s atrocities. Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness furthered social interest in Africa. Eventually, British officials ordered Irish human rights activist Sir Roger Casement to provide a report. Casement’s scathing 1906 report was so severe that London’s Foreign Office would not publish the original.


So people in power are able to cover up the evil things they do, in order to avoid punishment and to keep others from knowing about it. What a shock! If someone in the US had attempted to tell others this was happening, he would have been mocked by the uninformed dolts around him, too. So hard to believe, or maybe not.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Reply #12)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 01:08 AM

15. +1. Evil greed on an industrial scale

A father stares at the hand and foot of his five-year-old daughter, severed as a punishment for having harvested too little rubber.

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Response to dalton99a (Reply #15)

Wed Feb 13, 2019, 01:15 AM

16. It's a vision from hell. It takes a lot of evil to make people treat other people like that.

Their evil greed outweighs all else. It would seem at some point, if pushed, they would finally do it to their own family members.

That photo is beyond heart breaking. It's devastating.

Thank you for bringing it to the light of day. It needs to be seen, and the victims respected, so very, very too late.

(I don't know what kept them from going mad, other than their need to try to protect everyone they could until they dropped in their tracks.)

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

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