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Sat Apr 6, 2019, 04:39 PM

Belgium Apologizes for Kidnapping Children From African Colonies [View all]

BRUSSELS — Belgium apologized on Thursday for the kidnapping, segregation, deportation and forced adoption of thousands of children born to mixed-race couples during its colonial rule of Burundi, Congo and Rwanda.

The apology is the first time that Belgium has recognized any responsibility for what historians say was the immense harm the country inflicted on the Central African nations, which it colonized for eight decades. Prime Minister Charles Michel offered the apology on Thursday afternoon in front of a plenary session of Parliament, which was attended by dozens of people of mixed race in the visitors gallery.

Over the past year, Belgium has taken a number of steps to reassess its colonial past. The apologies also come at a time when politicians across Europe are under pressure from a growing African diaspora and a younger generation that wishes to shed a new light on colonial history in order to tackle latent racism and discrimination in European society.

Some experts on colonial history noted that Belgium’s apology came late — nearly 60 years after the three countries gained independence.

Many white Belgian men, nevertheless, married black Congolese women according to local customs, producing children sometimes called métis. But in the eyes of Belgium, these children undermined official segregation policies and blemished the white race’s prestige, official documents from that time show.

Visitors at Mr. Michel’s speech to Parliament in Brussels. Dozens of mixed-race people were among those in attendance.

Fearing a repeat of the Red River Rebellion in Canada in 1869-1870, when métis people revolted and overthrew the local government, the Belgian authorities ordered métis children in Congo to be separated from their families, and from the black population as a whole.

“Children born out of parents of mixed color during colonial times were always considered as a threat to the colonial enterprise, to profits and to the prestige and the domination of the white race,” said Assumani Budagwa, 65, a Belgian engineer and amateur historian who was born in colonial Congo and whose family experienced the separation of mixed-race children.

Mr. Budagwa was a co-author of a Parliamentary resolution that was unanimously adopted last year urging the government to apologize and recognizing Belgium’s misdeeds regarding the mixed-race children with the complicity of the Roman Catholic Church.




https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/04/world/europe/belgium-kidnapping-congo-rwanda-burundi.html

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