It’s no secret that colonization has introduced unspeakable horrors to communities of color throughout the world. And while an apology could never remedy those atrocities, it can serve as the impetus for long overdue healing and accountability.
The Belgian government has apologized for the country’s role in kidnapping thousands of mixed-race babies from their African mothers during colonial times. Thousands of children in what are now the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi were taken away and raised in Belgian institutions.
Prime Minister Charles Michel, 43 yrs old, said in a statement Thursday that “on behalf of the federal government, I present our apologies to the mixed-race children born from Belgian colonization and their families for the injustice and suffering they were subjected to.”
He expressed “compassion for the African mothers, whose children were torn away from them,” and concern for the emotional stresses the children went through. Michel said he hoped the government recognition would be a step toward a collective national reckoning of Belgium’s colonial past and in fighting racism today.
“This is why, in the name of the federal government, I recognize the targeted segregation of which métis people were victims” under Belgian colonial rule in Africa, and “the ensuing policy of forced kidnapping” after independence, he continued.
The prime minister announced plans to make resources available to finance additional research on the matter, as well as open up its colonial archives to métis people and offer administrative assistance to those seeking to gain access to their official records in order to attain Belgian nationality.
With the growing African diaspora exploring colonial history and addressing the racism and discrimination that permeates European society, politicians across Europe are beginning to feel the heat. As such, Belgium has spent the past year taking the steps it believes are necessary to atone for an atrocious past in which it colonized Burundi, Congo and Rwanda for eight decades.