Belgian “sorry” is not enough for the Congolese

By Nadia Nsayi
Pax Christi Flanders

In an interim report calls a working group of the UN around people of African descent in Belgium the Belgian State on to to express apologies for the atrocities committed during the colonization. Policy Officer Nadia Nsayi goes into a title expands on the content of the report.

This week a working group of the United Nations shared a preliminary report and recommendations on the human rights situation of people of African descent in Belgium (Afro-Belgians). The findings of the group confirm what we already read in previous studies such as the study of the King Baudouin Foundation from 2017: structural racism and discrimination prevent full participation of African Belgians in our society. The report shows what opinion makers have said for quite a while: there is a link between Belgium’s colonial past in Africa and the contemporary racism against people of African descent in Belgium.

The Belgian colonialism in Congo was a cocktail of imperialism–the urge for overseas territories to dominate–and capitalism—the profitable exploitation of raw materials and local forced labourers. This economic project was promoted as a ‘humanitarian mission’ of civilization that was based on a racist ideology of white superiority and black inferiority. The suppression of the Congolese lasted 75 years. The legacy of that colonization is still visible today, but also felt by surviving relatives.

Colonial life ideas and complexes. According to studies, Afro-Belgians, the largest group coming from the ex-colony Congo, face structural discrimination in education, in the labour market and on the rental market. This does not mean that all white Belgians are racists, or that all Afro-Belgians have no chance. But it expresses the fact that people in our country with black skin too often face unequal opportunities compared to their white fellow human beings. This is not acceptable.

I find it distressing to see that racism and discrimination continue to ruin our society. Since the visit of the UN group in 2005, there are fortunately also steps which have been put forward, though those are too small. However, I am hopeful. Local politicians and ordinary citizens take joint initiatives to look at our colonial past straight in the eye. They choose together a future with more mutual understanding and respect…

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