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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old Mar 11th, 2005, 03:20 AM Thread Starter
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Belgium

Interesting history.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/4332605.stm

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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old Mar 11th, 2005, 09:31 AM
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Belgians confront colonial past

By Angus Roxburgh
BBC News, Brussels


Belgium's riches were built on the harvest of rubber

Belgians are finally learning the unvarnished truth about the brutalities of their colonial past - and they are queuing up to find out more.


An exhibition at the Royal Museum for Central Africa just outside Brussels, entitled Memory of Congo: The Colonial Era, has been attracting 2,000 visitors a day.

Congo, which is now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo, was Belgium's only African colony, and from 1885 to 1908 it was the personal possession of King Leopold II, who ran it like an enormous private business, plundering its rubber, ivory and minerals.

His police enforcers, the Force Publique, meted out cruel punishments on villages that failed to pay taxes or produce sufficient rubber.

Now we are giving a balanced view... For many people this has come as an enormous shock


Guido Gryseels
Museum director

The exhibition includes photographs of children with limbs chopped off by the white colonisers.


Yet for years most Belgians knew little about this.

The museum director, Guido Gryseels, says many Belgian family histories include doctors, missionaries or nuns who went to the Congo, and until recently most grew up with the idea that Belgium did nothing but good in Africa.

King Leopold II treated the Congo as his personal possession

"We had a one-sided view of our colonial past" says Mr Gryseels.


"There was a positive view that Belgium went to Africa to stop the slave trade and civilise the Africans.

"Now we are giving a balanced view, with all the pros and cons. For many people this has come as an enormous shock."

Rubber was the chief commodity extracted from Congo's jungles at a time when the world was desperate for it.

A contemporaneous cartoon on show in the exhibition depicts a Belgian "concierge" at a barred door marked "Congo", saying to an American client: "Never mind what goes on behind the door! Should you feel any remorse, rest assured I will give you as much rubber as you require to render your conscience 'elastic'!"

Enormous wealth

King Leopold finally sold his "Congo Free State" to the Belgian government in 1908, having looted it and slaughtered millions of its people (exactly how many is a matter of dispute).

He used the enormous wealth thus gained to build grand palaces and monuments - including the Africa Museum and neighbouring Colonial Palace.

Belgian rule was enforced by Congo's Force Publique

An enormous statue of the long-bearded Leopold has been moved from its once prominent position in his museum to a discreet corner - all part of what Mr Gryseels calls a "revolutionary" reassessment of the king's role.


The impetus for the change came from the publication in 1998 of King Leopold's Ghost, a devastating account by US historian Adam Hochschild of what he called Belgium's "greed, terror and heroism in colonial Africa".

The exhibition does not accept Hochschild's claim that as many as 10 million died during Leopold's rule, but it no longer shies away from the atrocities the author described.

Mass education

The exhibition also chronicles the good work done by Belgian missionaries, who introduced health care and schools to the Congo.

Unlike the French and British colonial powers, the Belgians favoured mass education, in local languages, over educating an English or French-speaking elite.

Mr Gryseels says that despite a policy of racial segregation there was also a lively interchange of cultures between the colonisers and the natives.

Congolese children were taught in local languages

He concedes, though, that education only went so far - to the extent that even in 1960, when Congo finally gained its independence, there were only 27 Congolese with a university education, making it almost impossible to create a successful administration.


With no political class, the country fell into chaos and civil war.

Its first leader, Patrice Lumumba, was ousted within months and murdered, with Belgian and American complicity.

Belgium accepted responsibility and finally apologised for the assassination in 2002.

Belgium's collective amnesia about the unsavoury side of the country's rule in the Congo is strange, because the facts were well publicised a century ago.

The first claims of 10 million victims of Leopold's rule were made by Edmund Morel, a British shipping agent who in 1904 set up the Congo Reform Association.

Roger Casement, a British diplomat, also exposed the violence and forced labour he heard about from missionaries, while Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness described the brutality of the regime.

Very interesting indeed.


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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old Mar 11th, 2005, 10:24 AM
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Well every country with a colonial past needs to stand up and be counted in this regard, mine included. Also, just about every country on the planet has committed shameful deeds that it would rather forget.

At least Belgium is now finally standing up to be counted and I respect the Belgians for that. I can think of some countries that still refuse to face up to past atrocities and exploitation of indigenous populations (but wont name them here as I dont want to start a war!), so I dont think we should be too hard on the Belgians.

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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old Mar 11th, 2005, 11:41 AM
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When one thinks colonial power, one tends to think of Britain, France, Beligian and other European powers. Turkey is almost never mentioned though it too was one. Arabs not only colonized countries they also converted their people to their faiths and customs (nothing wrong with that). N. Sudan today is arabized. Russia of course was a colonial power too. One has to see which colonies did better than others. On the whole I would say that the British colonies did better after independance than lets say French/ Belgian colonies. Belgium had one of the worst administrations of Rwanda, Burundi & Congo. But what can one expect from a small country which probably did not have the means to admin. efficiently the country.
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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old Mar 11th, 2005, 12:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fifiricci
Well every country with a colonial past needs to stand up and be counted in this regard, mine included. Also, just about every country on the planet has committed shameful deeds that it would rather forget.

At least Belgium is now finally standing up to be counted and I respect the Belgians for that. I can think of some countries that still refuse to face up to past atrocities and exploitation of indigenous populations (but wont name them here as I dont want to start a war!), so I dont think we should be too hard on the Belgians.
Well considering the shape they left Congo-Kinshasa, Rwanda, and Uganda in, they ought to be doing a hell of a lot more than acknowledgement.


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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old Mar 11th, 2005, 12:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JustIncredible
Well considering the shape they left Congo-Kinshasa, Rwanda, and Uganda in, they ought to be doing a hell of a lot more than acknowledgement.
Uganda?
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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old Mar 11th, 2005, 01:01 PM
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Burundi

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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old Mar 11th, 2005, 01:33 PM
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Yes, sorry, Burundi.


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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old Mar 11th, 2005, 03:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JustIncredible
Well considering the shape they left Congo-Kinshasa, Rwanda, and Uganda in, they ought to be doing a hell of a lot more than acknowledgement.
you mean like the US-citizens should do with the native americans?

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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old Mar 11th, 2005, 03:36 PM
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I am truly surprised their history was not acknowledged fully before this time. But just as the this is coming out for the Belgians, I wish the US would do the same. It can be so maddening at times not to have a past acknowledged as if it didn't exist. I guess that's all I have to say really. The past is the past sometimes and I'm more concerned over what my own people are doing to their countrymen and women in present day Congo.
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post #11 of 26 (permalink) Old Mar 11th, 2005, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by rand
you mean like the US-citizens should do with the native americans?
Exactly.

But Native Americans have at least been acknowledged and reparations are made for those who are of Native American lineage.

Not to say that thats much, but do the Belgians do anything similar with their former colonies?

All I know of Belgian intervention in the region was during the Rwanda genocide where those Belgian peacekeepers were slaughtered and the remaining Belgian contingent in the UN force was immediately sent home because the Belgian people couldn't bear the deaths of approximately 10 soldiers. Funny, I wonder how many Africans died under Belgian rule, and the Belgians couldn't take the deaths of 10 or so soldiers. They stomached the 750,000+ massacred Tutsis though in the ensuing genocide pretty well though.


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post #12 of 26 (permalink) Old Mar 11th, 2005, 04:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JustIncredible
Exactly.

But Native Americans have at least been acknowledged and reparations are made for those who are of Native American lineage.

Not to say that thats much, but do the Belgians do anything similar with their former colonies?

All I know of Belgian intervention in the region was during the Rwanda genocide where those Belgian peacekeepers were slaughtered and the remaining Belgian contingent in the UN force was immediately sent home because the Belgian people couldn't bear the deaths of approximately 10 soldiers. Funny, I wonder how many Africans died under Belgian rule, and the Belgians couldn't take the deaths of 10 or so soldiers. They stomached the 750,000+ massacred Tutsis though in the ensuing genocide pretty well though.

To be honest, the entire UN knew what was going to happen but they just turned the other way. It wasn't just Belgium, the whole world turned a blind eye on Rwanda.
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post #13 of 26 (permalink) Old Mar 11th, 2005, 04:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JustIncredible
Exactly.

But Native Americans have at least been acknowledged and reparations are made for those who are of Native American lineage.

Not to say that thats much, but do the Belgians do anything similar with their former colonies?

All I know of Belgian intervention in the region was during the Rwanda genocide where those Belgian peacekeepers were slaughtered and the remaining Belgian contingent in the UN force was immediately sent home because the Belgian people couldn't bear the deaths of approximately 10 soldiers. Funny, I wonder how many Africans died under Belgian rule, and the Belgians couldn't take the deaths of 10 or so soldiers. They stomached the 750,000+ massacred Tutsis though in the ensuing genocide pretty well though.
I wonder how many died since the Belgians have left and total anarchy reigns!

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post #14 of 26 (permalink) Old Mar 11th, 2005, 04:44 PM
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deaths of 10 or so soldiers


That was under incompetent Canadian U.N. command leaving the Belgians alone to be butchered

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post #15 of 26 (permalink) Old Mar 11th, 2005, 04:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh
To be honest, the entire UN knew what was going to happen but they just turned the other way. It wasn't just Belgium, the whole world turned a blind eye on Rwanda.
Fair enough.

I just feel that since Rwanda was Belgium's colony, and most of the enmity between the Hutus and the Tutsis was aggravated by Belgian race policies while it was running Rwanda, the Belgians should have stepped in and put up more of a fight, at least for the women and children. So in my eyes, they bear more blame than anyone othe than the perpetrators themselves.

I mean c'mon, France does more for Congo-Kinshasa peacekeeping-wise than Belgium, and that was Belgium's colony.


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