Category Archives: Europe

Belgium: Commandos versus Africa Museum

Brussels 29.09.2020 The lawyers of seven Belgium associations representing former para commandos and officers who have served in Africa have given notice to the Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA, or AfricaMuseum) in Tervuren. They ask that “any damage to the honour and reputation of the Belgian para commandos” be obliterated in a text next to a statue at the large rotunda of the museum, Antwerp newspaper reports

The associations demand that any link between the operation of the para commandos and the “crushing” of the rebels be removed. They want the museum to remove any reference “that damages the reputation of the Belgian para commandos”, by 12 October 2020 at the latest.

In the absence of action within the set term, the associations will start legal proceedings, the lawyers say in the notice of default.

It concerns the statue “La Belgique opportant la sécurité au Congo” (Belgium brings security to Congo) by Arsène Matton. In addition, Belgium is portrayed as protecting a sleeping man and child in the folds of its flag. A semi-transparent veil has been applied over that image, with a postcolonial image intended to evoke a “visual and semantic shock that should shed new light on a heavy heritage”.

The picture shows an armed soldier with the text “A Belgian para commando in Stanleyville in 1964, crushing the Simba rebels. The formal independence of Congo in 1960 has by no means sounded the death knell for foreign intervention ”. The seven associations consider that the first sentence of the text is “particularly misleading, hurtful and an attack on the honor” of the then Belgian para commandos. They already sent an open letter in July to the general director of the museum, Guido Gryseels, with Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès in copy.

According to the associations, this sentence establishes a “direct and unmistakable link” between the operation of the Belgian para commandos in Stanleyville, the former name of the current Kisangani, and the crushing of the Simba rebels. “This link is a clear historical untruth”, it sounds. “The intervention of the Belgian para commandos in Stanleyville from November 24 to 28, 1964 was after all a humanitarian operation that made it possible to free 2,375 hostages and was in no way intended to” crush the Simba rebels “. The humanitarian operation of the para commandos had no military purpose; and if Simba rebels were killed by para commandos during the humanitarian operation, it was only in situations of absolute necessity. ”
The associations demand that any link between the operation of the para commandos and the “crushing” of the rebels be removed. They want the museum to remove any reference “that damages the reputation of the Belgian para commandos”, by 12 October 2020 at the latest.

In the absence of action within the set term, the associations will start legal proceedings, the lawyers say in the notice of default.

Nantes: Rwanda migrant admits arson

The Rwanda irregular migrant has been arrested again, he had previously been questioned and then released after the July 18 blaze that destroyed the precious baroque organ, shattered stained glass windows, and blackened the insides of the Cathedral of St.Peter and St.Paul of the French city of Nantes.

The 39-year-old, a failed asylum-seeker from Rwanda who has lived in France for several years, was detained again on July 25 after laboratory analysis determined that arson was the highly likely cause of the cirminal blaze, the local prosecutor’s office said.

The man had previously been questioned and then released after the July 18 blaze that destroyed the organ, shattered stained glass windows, and blackened the insides of the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul of the western French city of Nantes.

«My client is cooperating,» lawyer Quentin Chabert said at a news conference in Nantes, without speculating what prompted the attempt to burn down the Cathedral,and destroyed precious orgue and other artefacts.

«Obviously it was a relief for him to show, as he would say, his repentance. As a believer, it’s important for him to show this effort,» he said.

BFMTV, citing a source close to the investigation, said that the defendant had been in France since 2012 and was obliged to leave French territory at the end of 2019. His residence permit expired in March of this year and became invalid, and he has exhausted all the legal procedures to stay in France further. Before the fire in the cathedral, the perpetrator had no record of law violations.

The rector of the Nantes cathedral, Hubert Champenois, admitted that he fully trusted the accused, who served in the church for several years.

The version of deliberate arson was a priority from the early stage of the investigation.The fires appeared simultaneously in three places at a considerable distance from each other. Upon closer examination of the consequences of the fire, experts found traces of a flammable liquid.

The accused was the last one to leave the cathedral before the fire and lock its doors. During the first interrogation by the police, he was confused in testimony regarding his future pastime and was the main suspect.

The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul is the cathedral of the Diocese of Nantes, the largest Gothic church in historic Brittany and one of the largest in France, just 6 meters below Notre Dame Cathedral, and surpasses it in the height of the nave under the arches.

The cathedral was built for almost five hundred years – from 1434 to 1891. This is the fourth church in this place. It was preceded by an early Christian Roman chapel at Namnet (3rd century), a 6th-century cathedral, and an 11th-century Romanesque cathedral.

The ‘grand orgue’, the masterpiece of Jacques Giradet, was constructed in 1620, escapting fire in 1972, has been destroyed to ashes this time.

The instrument of the master Jacques Girardet was equipped with 27 stops. Over the centuries, the organ has been in constant evolution while surviving the upheavals of French history. It has undergone five restorations, bringing their number to 74, or 5,500 pipes.

Ghent removes Leopold II bust

Belgium city of Ghent removed a bust of King Leopold II from one of the city parks, in a symbolic gesture aligned with the celebration of 60 years of the independence of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the former colony.

“This symbolic action is received as a relief by the Congolese community,” said Marie-Laure Mulayi . “Finally, we are being heard.” The student from African origin, she leads Umoja student union, devoted to multiculturalsm.

During the ceremony on Juin 31, testimonies were read by inhabitants of Ghent with African roots.

“Today is a very important day. But it is not the last day. This is the start of a process, not an end. The battle continues. We will continue to do our best and hopefully we will have a better world soon. ”

“Today we want to turn a black page in our history,” said ships Tine Heyse (Green party). After a minute of silence, the removal proceeded. After the statue was removed there was brief applause.

The bust was brought to a depot of the Ghent City Museum. It will be examined later to assess the damages made by vandals. The nameplate with the inscription “Leopold II, King of the Belgians” and the pedestal on which the statue stood will remain for the time being.

The time when the controversial statue was removed was kept secret. The City of Ghent did not wish to make it a public event, indicating that they were determined to respect social distancing and other sanitary norms in the situations of coronavirus pandemic.

The controversial statue has been damaged several times by vandals in recent weeks. On Juin 31 in the evening, the Belgicist association Pro Belgica made a final tribute to the statue.

There are different reaction of the removal, also those who think it is wrote to erase past. “Ghent capitulates. One criminal, Leopold II, is now replaced by another, who has been canonized: George Floyd. All under the guise of ‘the fight against racism and discrimination” writes on his Twitter micro blog Sam van Rooy, the Flemish politician and Member of Flemish parliament.

Belgium King appologies for Colonial past

Here is the letter that Belgium King Philippe sent to the Congolese president, Félix Tshisekedi, as part of the 60th anniversary of the independence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The sovereign expresses “deep regrets” there. (Translation from original in French):

On this sixtieth anniversary of the independence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I extend my warmest wishes to you and to the Congolese people.

This anniversary is an opportunity to renew our feelings of deep friendship and to rejoice in the intense cooperation that exists between our two countries in so many fields, and in particular in the medical field, which is mobilizing us during this pandemic period. The health crisis strikes us amidst other concerns. The privileged partnership between Belgium and Congo is an asset to face it. On this national holiday, I wish to reaffirm our commitment by your side.

To further strengthen our ties and develop an even more fruitful friendship, we must be able to speak of our long common history in all truth and serenity.

Our history is made of common achievements but has also experienced painful episodes. At the time of the independent state of Congo acts of violence and cruelty were committed, which still weigh on our collective memory. The colonial period that followed also caused suffering and humiliation. I would like to express my deepest regrets for these wounds of the past, the pain of which is today rekindled by the discrimination still too present in our societies. I will continue to fight all forms of racism. I encourage the reflection that has been initiated by our parliament so that our memory is definitively pacified.

Global challenges demand that we look to the future in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect. The fight for human dignity and for sustainable development requires joining forces. It is this ambition that I formulate for our two countries and for our two continents, African and European.

The current circumstances unfortunately do not allow me to go to your beautiful country, which I would love to know better. I hope I will have the opportunity soon. “

Isabel Dos Santos accuses fraudsters

Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos, denounes fraudsters, insisting that a fake copy of her passport with the signature of martial artist and celbrity Bruce Lee was used to seize her assets in Angola and in Portugal.

An internet fraudster claiming to represent her interests used the document to propose a loan to a Japanese startup before Angolan authorities presented it as part of evidence that she was attempting to transfer large sums of money abroad, Dos Santos said May 12 in an statement that includes pictures of the forged passport. While the authenticity of a copy of her passport was investigated in one of those cases, the elements proved in that process “weren’t based on any identity document, but on documents that attested to the fear of dissipation of assets,” it said in a statement.

This not only served as the basis for the confiscation of all the property of Ms dos Santos in Angola, but also for a rogatory letter asking the Portuguese judiciary to freeze her assets in Portugal,” Dos Santos said.

Dos Santos’s assets in Angola were frozen late last year after authorities in the southwest African nation accused her of engaging in deals with state-owned companies that cost the state $1.14 billion. In February, Portuguese prosecutors also froze Dos Santos assets in the country, home to a sizable portion of her estimated $2.4 billion fortune, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The daughter of late President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has been living outside Angola since 2018, has denied any wrongdoing and insisted that the allegations are politically motivated to prevent her from participation in elections.

In an exclusive interview with DW TV, the Angolan president spoke about the scandal. Joao Lourenco said no one was exempt in the fight against corruption in Angola, and that there would be “no negotiations” with people who had allegedly taken their assets out of the country illegally.

Angola’s prosecutor general’s office said late on May 12 that Dos Santos currently faces several civil and criminal cases in which the state claims more than $5 billion, which were acquired through fraudulent manipulations with state aid.

Isabel dos Santos’ assets have been frozen in Angola. On January 22, the country’s prosecutors charged her with money laundering, influence peddling, harmful management, forgery of documents and other economic crimes during her time as head of the national oil company, Sonangol, from 2016 to 2017.

The charges against Isabel dos Santos were brought after an investigation into the scandal led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) using more than 715,000 leaked files. The richest woman of Africa, as she is often referred to, has vehemently denied the accusations, and claimed she is the target of political persecution.

Italian hostage returned from Kenya

Liberated Italian hostage Silvia Romano landed at Rome’s Ciampino airport aboard a special flight at about 2 p.m. (1200 GMT).

Escorted by masked men from the intelligence service, young woman temporarily removed her protective mask to wave while she descended the steps from the jet before hugging family members waiting for her at the airport. “I am literally bursting with joy at this moment. But it is hard even only to think, please let me breathe. I need to withstand the shock, happiness is so big that it is exploding,” Silvia’s father Enzo was quoted as saying by several Italian media.

NGO volonteer was greeted by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and the chief of Italian diplomacy Luigi Di Maio.

A group of armed men abdicted Romano, who was working for an Italian charity called Africa Milele, in northern Kenya in November 2018.

After extensive international search operations led by Italian intelligence, she was traced in Somalia, some 30 km (19 miles) outside the capital of Mogadishu, and was released due to efforts by the intelligence service, Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio underlined.

In her home neighbourhood in Milan, church bells saluted her arrival, with many people on their balconies, SKY TG24 showed.

Romano is expected to meet prosecutors in Rome later on May 10 to participate in the investigatiion case of her abdiction.

“I was strong, and resisted,” Romano was quoted by Italian media as saying publically after her release.

Prime Minister Conte said that the task force working to free Romano had been in the final stages for the last months, after receiving proof that she was still alive. The head of the government added that details were not revealed to avoid compromise of the secret service operation.

We are so glad to welcome Silvia back in such a delicate moment for the country. The State is always there, and will always be there,” Conte said.

Prime Minister expressed gratitude for the efforts of the intelligence services, the judiciary and the defence and diplomacy, all involved in the release the Italian aid worker.

Italian newspapers reported that Italy’s intelligence services had launched a vast and complicated operation together with Somali and Turkish counterparts to free Romano.

COVID19: Cote d’Ivoire PM evacuated to France

Cote d’Ivoire Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly (61), the candidate in October’s presidential election from the ruling party, was evacuated on May 2 to France for medical examinations, the presidency informed.

The brief statement from the presidency on May 3 provided no further details about Gon Coulibaly’s condition. Gon Coulibaly self-isolated in late March because of possible exposure to the coronavirus, but the COVID-19 test was negative.

Defence Minister Hamed Bakayoko, who recovered from the coronavirus last month, will serve as interim Prime minister in Gon Coulibaly’s absence, the statement said.

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara designated Gon Coulibaly in March as the ruling RHDP party’s candidate for the presidential election after excluding a third term himself.

Ivory Coast has recorded more than 1,300 cases of the coronavirus, one of the highest totals in West Africa, and 15 deaths.

COVID19: Africa flower industry collapse

The crash of the $8.5 billion global trade in cut flowers shows how quickly and distinctively the new coronavirus pandemic is disrupting supply chains, even in places where it isn’t yet pervasive. After only a few weeks of quarantine,

The flower trade is a masterpice of modern capitalism. A chain of cold storage starts with stems being picked in places as far away as Africa, the Middle East, and South America, then packed into refrigerated trucks, driven to refrigerated planes, and flown to Amsterdam to be auctioned off.

They’re then repacked into more cold trucks and planes and delivered to supermarkets, florists, and bridal bouquets across Asia, Europe, and the U.S.

The auctions are run by a cooperative, Royal FloraHolland, formed a century ago by a group of growers who met in a pub and devised a system to better control how their flowers were sold.

Royal FloraHolland now runs four auction sites that handle the considerable volume of the global trade. Its facility in Aalsmeer, a concrete warehouse, is one of the biggest buildings in Europe. Each day before sunrise, workers fill it with truckloads of chrysanthemums, roses, and tulips. Buyers assemble in rooms filled with computer screens, where photos of each lot are displayed. Usually over 20 million flowers and plants are sold at Royal FloraHolland every day.

Royal FloraHolland decided to proceed with the auction ahead of the King’s Day, the date of celebrating the birthday of the Dutch King Willem-Alexander, however the events have been cancelled and the Royal subjects have received a recommendation to stay safe at home.

The figures about Royal FloraHolland are impressive beyond imaginable: 90% of Dutch flower trade takes place at Royal FloraHolland. The auction houses have around 5000 members, 9000 suppliers, 3500 customers and 4500 employees.

Dutch floricultural business creates 250.000 full time jobs for people worldwide, directly as well as indirectly.

Ms.Dos Santos witness found dead

A banker (pictured) implicated in the embezzlement and money-laundering case against Isabel dos Santos, daugther of late President of Angola, has been found dead in Lisbon.
Mr Da Cunha was found dead at one of his properties in Lisbon. A police source told Portuguese media that “everything points to suicide”.

Nuno Ribeiro da Cunha (45), managed the account of oil firm Sonangol, formerly chaired by Ms Dos Santos, at the small Portuguese lender EuroBic.Portuguese media reports refering to their own sources in police, that the investigation considers there three scenarios at the moment: that of a suicide attempt, but also a simulation of a suicide attempt or even an attempted murder.

The bankers death was reported on January 23, it happened shorty after prosecutors office in Luanda attributed him a status of a “suspect”. Along with Mr.Ribeiro da Cunha, they have named five other people as suspects in the same case, and urged them to return to Angola.

Ms Dos Santos denies alleged corruption, insisting it is a politically motivated witch-hunt. In her statement Ms Dos Santos denied the allegations, describing them as a “very concentrated, orchestrated and well-co-ordinated political attack, ahead of elections in Angola next year”.
“It is an attempt to neutralise me and to discredit the legacy of President dos Santos and his family. No-one should be taken in by these diversionary tactics,” she said.

Recently international media reported on more than 700,000 leaked documents about Ms.Dos Santos business empire.
The documents showed how she got access to lucrative land, oil, diamond and telecoms deals when her father was President of Angola. At present her fortune is estimated at $2.1 bn (£1.6bn) reflecting on her infromal title of “Africa’s richest woman”.

Libya: EU promotes Berlin process

“Confronted with the worrying recent military escalation in Libya and also in view of the Foreign Affairs Council scheduled for Friday 10th January, we met in Brussels today to reaffirm our commitment to immediately halt the fighting around Tripoli and elsewhere and to discuss how the EU can further contribute to the UN mediation and to a swift return to political negotiations;” reads texts of the Joint Statement by the High Representative of the European Union for Common Foreign and Security Policy and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, issued today on January 7, 2020 in Brussels

“The EU is of the firm conviction that there is no military solution to the Libyan crisis and that a protracted conflict will only bring more misery to ordinary people, exacerbate divisions, increase the risk of partition, spread instability across the region and aggravate the threat of terrorism. An immediate cessation of hostilities is therefore crucial.

“All the members of the international community need to strictly respect and enforce the UN arms embargo. Continuing outside interference is fuelling the crisis. The more the Libyan warrying parties rely on foreign military assistance, the more they give external actors undue influence on sovereign Libyan decisions, to the detriment of the country’s national interests and of regional stability.

“In particular, we stressed the necessity to avoid unilateral actions such as the signing of agreements which further exacerbate the conflict or actions which create a pretext for external interference that are contrary to the interests of the Libyan people, as well as to European interests, as underlined by the European Council conclusions of 12 December 2019.

“On the contrary, the Berlin process and the UN mediation efforts put the needs of all Libyans to the forefront and suggest sustainable solutions to core issues such as unifying institutions, distributing the country’s wealth equitably, and outlining a realistic roadmap towards a political settlement.

“We urge all Libyan parties to sincerely embrace these UN-led efforts and to return to negotiations. The EU will continue to support the UN mediation and will help implementing any decisions that may be taken in Berlin.”

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