Tag Archives: Belgium

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.

 

 

Belgium Africa Museum metamorphose

A new permanent exhibition of renovated African Museum is reflecting the image of modern Africa, focusing on present and future of the continent, taking a clear break from the concept of the past, narrating the European-centered view on African civilization. Undergoing a major reform, one century old notorious institution known as the Palace of Colonies, and later as Royal Museum for Central Africa, mainly focused on Congo, aims to get rid of the shadows of the past, without abandoning shared history.

On December 8  the African Museum opened it doors after five years renovation,  completely refurbishing the collection display in framework of a new philosophy. Next to the classical themes of masks and rituals, there are the new ones to arise, forming dazzling artifacts display telling stories of daily life and diaspora, languages and music, climate change, biodiversity, and the paradox of natural wealth.

We have developed a critical narrative of the colonial past, compared to one-sided perspective we used to offer” said the Museum Director Guido Gryseels.”We wish to become a ‘site of remembrance’ for both Belgians and Congolese, but not only a monument reminiscent of the past, much more of a dynamic platform for debate on future, welcoming all the opinions”.

We have definitely tried to develop a balanced narrative, by collating facts and memories to depict the most  comprehensive image, offering everyone an opportunity to the personal opinion of their own“, Mr. Gryseels concluded referring to a new mindset of the Museum. “We developed our approach based on the available, scientifically objective research. We morally distance ourselves from King Leopold II policy  as the ruler of the Congo Free State”. 

 

 

African Museum “half-celebration”

In spite of the €66 million investment into the renovation of the Africa Museum, and five years of intense reconstruction, for the representatives of Congolese diaspora the re-opening of a new concept institution is just a “half-celebration“, because the  in de-colonisation process should go “much further“.

Developing a new concept of Belgium Africa Museum its leadership invited  Africans themselves from the countries of the continent, and from diaspora to share their narrative, creating a genuine and meaningful platform for the debate, a work in process to reflect the continuous evolution of societies, and cultures towards each other, marking a clear break with the Colonial Palace Museum from the times of King Leopold II.

With this Museum Africa receives the place it merits – Africa existed before the colonization” – Billy Calonji from Congolese diaspora commented, reflecting on complex shared history of Belgium and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). (VIDEO below in French language).

Through decades the Museum has been experiencing a fundamental cultural evolution, moving from West-centered vision of Africa to modern concept of a multi-polar world, and multi-cultural societies. From once upon a time a Colonial Palace with Royal collections of artifacts of Belgium kings it reshaped itself into modern fascinating platform for communications between people, cultures, and  civilizations.

Among precious experiences and metamorphosis of the Museum special place close to the  heart of Africans is kept for the ceremony of commemoration honoring the seven Congolese who did not survive the climate and perished being brought by the King Leopold II for the Universal Exhibition of 1897. A group of  267 Congolese was “imported” to stay in practiced in those days “human zoo”, re-creating life of Bantu tribes in Free State of Congo for the expo visitors.

On the sidelines of the reopening of the Africa Museum scheduled for this Saturday, December 8, a commemorative service has been held at noon in front of the seven graves lined up along the Saint-Jean Church, Tervuren. A week earlier a commemorative plate was installed in the Museum parc  to engrave the memory of those Congolese in a symbolic gesture to mark the place of the exhibition village. “We asked them for pardon, and we hope that the direction the Museum takes, is the way they could have wished”, Mr.Calonji continued.

However the shadows of the past are not able to overwhelm the vibrant future ahead of the Museum as a platform for debate, culture, and African studies which  are assessed as the positive elements by Billy Calonji, who holds in high esteem African diaspora efforts, actively participating in creating a new concept of African Museum, but nevertheless the work should continue even further.

During the renovation works the Museum has developed close relationships with members of African diaspora in Belgium in pursue of a new mindset: a synergy in cooperation within modern multicultural Belgium society, and beyond.

The partnerships with national museum in Rwanda, Musée des civilisations noires in Senegal, the national museum of Congo in Kinshasa, and in Lubumbashi have been developed.

A little bit of patience is needed, while waiting for the opening of the Museum in Kinshasa in Congo” said Mr.Calonji, refereing to the scheduled for the end of 2019 event, awaited by lovers of African art and culture, expecting to bring the dialogue between civilizations to a next stage.

In its engagement to overcome the notorious legacy of Belgium  colonial past, hundreds of artifacts were returned to Africa: to the Institute of National Museums of Congo in Kinshasa, and to the National Museum of Rwanda in Butare, but the work will go on the Director of the Museum Guido Gryseels confirmed. The digitisation of a significant  parts of archive has been undertaken to hand in the originals to Rwanda Museum.

We acknowledge that the moral ownership of the objects is with Africans themselves” said Mr.Gryseels  to international press at the preview visit.

 

 

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