Bel­gium is­sues apol­ogy over colo­nial past in Africa

The Buffalo News - - OPINION - By Milan Schreuer NEW YORK TIMES

BRUS­SELS – Bel­gium apol­o­gized 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. It comes 60 years af­ter the coun­tries gained in­de­pen­dence.

Prime Min­is­ter Charles Michel of­fered the apol­ogy Thurs­day af­ter­noon in front of a ple­nary ses­sion of Par­lia­ment, which was at­tended by dozens of peo­ple of mixed race in the vis­i­tors gallery.

“Through­out Bel­gian colo­nial Africa, a sys­tem of tar­geted seg­re­ga­tion of metis and their fam­i­lies was main­tained by the Bel­gian state, and acts were com­mit­ted that vi­o­lated the fun­da­men­tal rights of peo­ples,” he said, us­ing the term for mixed-race peo­ple.

“This is why, in the name of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, I rec­og­nize the tar­geted seg­re­ga­tion of which metis peo­ple were vic­tims” un­der Bel­gian colo­nial rule in Africa and “the en­su­ing pol­icy of forced kid­nap­ping” af­ter in­de­pen­dence, he added.

“In the name of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment,” Michel said, “I present our apolo­gies to the metis stem­ming from the Bel­gian colo­nial era and to their fam­i­lies for the in­jus­tices and the suf­fer­ing in­flicted upon them.”

“I also wish to ex­press our com­pas­sion for the African moth­ers from whom the chil­dren were taken,” he said.

The prime min­is­ter said that the Bel­gian gov­ern­ment would make re­sources avail­able to fi­nance ad­di­tional re­search on the is­sue, open up its colo­nial archives to metis peo­ple and of­fer ad­min­is­tra­tive help to those seek­ing to gain ac­cess to their of­fi­cial records and seek­ing Bel­gian na­tion­al­ity.

Over the past year, Bel­gium has taken a num­ber of steps to re­assess its colo­nial past.

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