There is a general consensus that European colonizers should apologize to African countries for the damage they caused (and continue to cause) because of colonialism and endemic racism, but the argument further goes on to postulate that they should walk the talk by even paying reparations.
Europeans colonizers managed to get away with their colonial crimes - and they have never really been accountable. And because of this, the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent has stated in its report that Belgium should apologize for the crimes committed in Congo. The report noted that racism was "endemic" in Belgium's institutions, and for relations to move forward, Belgium should apologize for the colonial atrocities it inflicted on the Congolese.
Belgium had a tight grip on the Democratic Republic of Congo in a brutal fashion. Initially, Congo was under the personal rule of King Leopold II who controlled Congo as his own personal asset. King Leopold II founded and exploited the Congo Free State and his rule from 1885 to 1908 saw some of the worst crimes against humanity being committed against the Congolese, so as to fuel colonialism.
King Leopold later handed Congo to Belgium, and the country perpetuated the evil rule initiated by Leopold, till Congo obtained its independence in 1960. And even after independence, the West connived together to assassinate Patrice Lumumba who had been democratically elected as the first prime minister of the country. In his place the West ensured its proxy, Mobutu Sese Seko got in, and his rule was extremely disastrous to the country as it was characterized by ruthlessness and looting that sounded like fiction.
Closing a dark chapter
The UN UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent is strongly advocating for Belgium to offer apologies so that at least a dark chapter in the history of the two countries is closed.
The report made mention of Belgium paying reparations to Congo "with a view to closing the dark chapter in history and as a means of reconciliation and healing." For those atrocities committed during colonisation, Belgium should apologize and pay reparations. Because, healing and closure. The wounds are too deep. The racism is intricate, deep, and rife.
"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 colonisation."
"(We are) concerned about the human rights situation of people of African descent in Belgium who experience racism and racial discrimination," it said. "There is clear evidence that racial discrimination is endemic in institutions in Belgium."
Will this ever happen?
Former colonizers are notorious for not wanting to own up to their crimes against the continent of Africa, and other former colonies from other parts of the world.
Their intransigence and obstinacy when it comes to this issue is almost sickening and maddening, but this is a battle the continent has to contend with.
Basing from the track record of these European colonizers, it is very much unlikely that Belgium will pay for reparations to Congo. Congo's impoverishment despite being a rich nation in terms of natural resources shows the damage that the West can do due to colonialism and interference in local affairs.
So the question always remains, will Belgium comply with all these recommendations that have been highlighted?
Header image credit - All That's Interesting