Tag Archives: Belgium

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.

Burundi demands $43bn reparations for colonialism

Burundi wishes Belgium and Germany to pay $43 billion in reparations for harm done during decades of colonial rule.

The move follows similar calls for compensation by the Democratic Republic of Congo after Belgian King Philippe in June offered his “deepest regrets” over his nation’s colonial past in the Congo.

Burundi also intends to recuperate from Belgium and Germany the archival material and objects expropriated between 1899 and 1962, Senate President Reverien Ndikuriyo told senators in the capital, Gitega, on Thursday, August 13. In 2018, the Senate appointed a panel including historians and anthropologists to investigate the impact of colonialism rule on the nation.

Much of Burundi’s present-day political challenges can be traced back to a decree by Belgian King Albert I to classify the population along three ethnic groups, according to Aloys Batungwanayo, a historian and doctoral researcher at the Lausanne University.

“It is this decree that has led to conflicts in Burundi and the region because some of the population was excluded from the ruling class because of the decree,” Batungwanayo said in the commercial hub Bujumbura, Bloomberg reports.

The Black Lives Matter movement has stirrred the debate about racism in the West, and in the sub-Saharan Africa much of the experts has focused on the legacy of colonialism.

The demands of reparations conicided with the request of the Council of Ministers of the East Africa Comminity (EAC) to Burundi to disburse the outstanding budgetary contributions ($6.5 million) by September 15, to enable the EAC organs and Institutions discharge their mandate.

The East Africa Community’s 41st Extraordinary Meeting of the Council of Ministers was held on August 4, under the chairmanship of Rwanda’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Vincent Biruta. “The Secretariat as well as the other organs and institutions are already experiencing liquidity challenges,” said Mr Biruta in the report. “A number of providers of goods and services need to be paid. Some activities are being put on hold until the partner states disburse the outstanding contribution.”

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. “

Belgium colonial taboo

By the end of last year Africa Museum in outskirts of Brussels, Belgium, has terminated cooperation with a guide accused of “racist comments” during a tour with students, because of mentioning some positive sides of the colonial past.
He is no longer a guide at our museum,” the director of the Museum Guido Gryseels said while dealing with the allegations. “We have distanced ourselves from his statements.”

The guide, who has not been named, but referred in social media as Dirk, has made some unsuccessful attempts to present an objective from his point of view concept of Belgium’s colonialism of Africa, mentioning some positive elements of introduction of advantages of Western civilisation to Congo, which are an absolute taboo in Belgium modern cultural discourse.

During a recent tour of the Museum given to a group of history students from the University of Antwerp, one of their number, Hanane Llouh, alleged on Twitter and to Agence France Press (AFP),

The student Ms.Llouh wrote on her Twitter page that she was «furious and offended» by the guide interpretations of the past.

Gryseels said the guide, with whom he discussed the complaint, agreed to a “lack of judgement” in some of his comments portraying colonial history positively, but denied making outright racist statements.

We have stopped our collaboration with him,Gryseels said, adding: “He’s a freelancer so we can’t really fire him.”

However not everyone approved the draconian measures of the Museum administration against the ‘heretic‘ guide. The voices were raised against the disproportionate reaction, indicating that the guide Dirk did not twist any facts or figures. However his vision of Congo history was influenced by very personal souvenirs kept in his family. Apparently the stories of his grandmother residing there were preciosus to him, and he was pround of her, treating her African servant as a member of the family, eating all together at the table once a week in a patriarchal manner. Dirk called for more ‘nuanced‘ vision of colonial past, avoiding the trap generalisations, reproducing clichées. The guide also complained that while soliciting he was confronted with discirmination based on his skin color, but finally he was admitted for the job.

Hanane Llouh studies both history and fashion design in Antwerp, apparently she is also an activist, entering polemics with the prominent politician Filip Dewinter from Vlaams Belang party, who objects her imposing burkini swiming costume and the other attributes of Muslim culture onto Flemish lifestyle. “Follow your heart! If you choose a direction in which you always reluctantly dive behind the books, that will have a negative impact on your own well-being…” shares her thoughts student Llouh in an interview for University site, explaining her activism.

Apparently the heart of Ms.Llouh as compass is not accepted by everyone universally. Dewinter has been pointing at Llouh, while criticising wearing the veil in Univeristy of Antwerp (UA). “While women risk their lives in Iran to shed headscarves, Islam discrimination symbol is propagated here by UA! How cynical” he wrote. (Hanane Llouh on the image below in veil).

African Museum is one of five among Belgian establishments nominated for the ‘European Museum of the Year Award’, the European Museum Forum announced.

The Africa Museum has welcomed more than 350,000 visitors since it was re-opened in December 2019, according to BX1. Before the encounter with Antwerp University students. the expelled guide Dirk has conducted 70 groups, and neither of them complained about his narrative.

Belgium hosts Laurent Gbagbo

Belgium has agreed to host Cote d’Ivoire ex-President Laurent Gbagbo following his acquittal by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
The spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Belgium had agreed to welcome the former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, who is released on conditions, as announced by the International Criminal Court, after his acquittal in January for crimes against humanity.

Belgium has accepted the request of the International Criminal Court to host former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo on its territory, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Belga news agency. The International Criminal Court (ICC) released conditionally Mr. Gbagbo, acquitted more than two weeks ago of crimes against humanity committed in 2010 and 2011 during post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire.

Belgium has received a request for cooperation from the Court because of family ties of Laurent Gbagbo in our country,” said Karl Lagatie, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Belgium supports the international criminal courts and we have responded positively to this request.”

Laurent Gbagbo have to be available to the Court for the duration of the appeal, the ministry added.

According to the Belgian press, one of Gbagbo‘s wives – Nady Bamba (47), lives there with their son.  Alghouth Christain Mr.Gbagbo has two wives: the First Lady (2000-2010) of Cote d’Ivore Simone Gbagbo (69) and Nady Bamba.
Simone Gbagbo was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2015 in Côte d’Ivoire for her responsibility. in the tragic events of 2010-2011, described as an attack on state security. In 2018, she received an amnesty decreed by the incumbent President Alassane Ouattara.

It was a request from the court to host Mr Gbagbo simply because he has family in Belgium: his second wife, a child in Brussels,” Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told RTBF, Begium’s public television channel, on February 2.

We have concluded that it is alright for him to stay in Belgium while on conditional release,” he said, adding that the “conditions” of his stay would be discussed with the ICC including “limits” on Gbagbo‘s movements.

 

Egmont Royal Institute internship

Egmont Royal Institute for International relations offers paid internship opportunity:  Education & Training Programme (Fr-Eng):

Le Programme Education & Formation de l’Institut Egmont cherche à recruter un(e) stagiaire à Bruxelles pour une durée de 6 mois, débutant le 1er mars 2019.

Le stage consistera en un soutien logistique et organisationnel du Programme Education & Formation, ainsi qu’en une participation à l’élaboration stratégique de futures formations (par exemple : formations en Pratiques diplomatiques ; Partenariat avec des Ecoles Nationales d’Administration en Afrique subsaharienne ; formations en Gestion civile des crises).

Qualifications requises pour le stage :

  • Niveau master ou équivalent ;
  • Maîtrise professionnelle du français et de l’anglais (tâches de rédaction dans les deux langues).La connaissance du néerlandais est un plus ;
  • Multi-tasking, dynamisme et résistance au stress pendant les périodes de formation.

Sont un atout :

  • Expérience dans ou en rapport avec la diplomatie et/ou les administrations publiques, notamment en ambassades, dans un Ministère, ou dans l’organisation de conférences avec des diplomates et/ou du personnel d’administrations publiques ;
  • Expérience dans l’organisation d’évènements et/ou dans la gestion de projets (budget, élaboration des plannings et chronogrammes).

Le Programme Education & Training offre un stage:

  • dans un environnement et une équipe dynamique et en pleine croissance, avec une délégation de tâches intéressante ;
  • qui permet de rencontrer un grand nombre de professionnels, académiques, diplomates et d’améliorer ses connaissances du fonctionnement des institutions présentes à Bruxelles et en Belgique (OTAN, SEAE, Parlement européen, Parlement belge, Représentations permanentes belges, Port d’Anvers) ;
  • rémunéré de 900 € par mois.

 Merci d’adresser votre candidature sous forme de CV et lettre de motivation dans un fichier PDF commun avant le 13 février 2019 à l’adresse suivante : e.trappeniers@egmontinstitute.be

Image below: d’Egmont Palace, Brussels

egmontpalace

D’Egmont palace is used for receptions and meetings by the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and hosts many events organized by the Royal Institute for International Relations.

 

Cameroon masterpiece at BRAFA

Brussels Antiques & Fine Art Fair (BRAFA) traditionally presents a sophisticated collection of masterpieces of African art, and this year event reaffirms its excellence, sharing with art lovers rare, and mythic objects of authentic cultures.

Doustar Gallery, Brussels displays an extraordinary 19th century piece of Cameroon art: Atwonzen, a beaded head, worn in ancient mysterious rituals by chiefs of Bamileke people in Dschang region.  (Image below).

Art Without Frontiers” is the motto of BRAFA ambitious to celebrate art from every continent and every culture, which has been one of the strengths of the Fair, and one of the reasons explaining its international success. Masterpieces from Africa, America, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania broaden the horizons, and inspire, while bringing visitors in contact with the other forms of art and expression, to other representations and fascinating different visions of the world.

dsc_0665

The BRAFA Art Fair, created in 1956, is one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious art fairs, famous for the high quality fine art, antiques, modern and contemporary art and design. The Fair lasts for 9 days from the end of January to the beginning of February. The first major art event of the year, it is considered a reliable barometer of the art market.

atwonzen

Louis Michel receives death threats

Since the end of  2018 a prominent Belgium politician, Louis Michel  has been attacked by Congolese opponents and received several letters containing death threats, media reports. (Image: archive).

I have received several threatening letters, I have refused close protection but I am under surveillance, I do not want to say more,” said Louis Michel, the Member of the European parliament (MEP),  former European Commissioner and father of the incumbent Prime Minister.

The threats launch started on December 10, in Oslo, during the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize to Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege, after which a dozen Congolese opponents of the Union pour la Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) movement attacked the politician.

During the month of December, Louis Michel again received letters containing explicit death threats at his home in Jodoigne.

The MEP complained and the case was taken seriously by the State Security who offered him close protection. As he confirms himself, he has not accepted it but he has been under discreet surveillance ever since.

Polls taken over the last decade indicate that roughly 75% of Congolese population self identify as members of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS).

From 1908 until independence in 1960 the Congo used to be a colony of Kingdom of Belgium. The former colony adopted its name – the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 1964.

 

Marrakesh: leaders sign Global Compact

Speaking at the start of the UN conference in Marrakesh where  states gather to adopt the so-called Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, the Secretary General Antonio Guterres promoted the initiative, insisting developed countries needed more migration due to their declining birth rates and aging populations.

In July all 193 UN members except the United States concluded the non-binding pact of a highly political nature. But since then, the text has come under scrutiny from right-wing European politicians who are convinced it could lead to an increase in migration flows, and the courts would lose the tool to extradite the illegal migrants as the difference between legal and illegal migration would disappear.

At least six European Union members – mostly in Eastern Europe – have shunned the accord. On Sunday, hours ahead of the conference, Chile was the latest country to pull out, while Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel faced collapse of the governing coalition, with resignation of his ministers.

Although depicted as an achievement, the Declaration continues to provoke criticism over its ambiguity not only from right-wing, but also from center right. The European Parliament did not adopt the Resolution of Global Compact in November plenary, the failure regarded as a blow to the image of the initiative. Subsequently the European Parliament delegation had a humble presence.

In spite of the ambivalence, and criticism the signature of Global Compact is a huge step forward to eliminate the concept of ‘illegal migrants’, and create a world without borders.

 

 

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