On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Congo’s independence from Belgium, the Congolese diaspora is looking for the removal of racist statues but not only that.
“Many think that our political conscience has just sparked now, but we have been here for decades,” says Mireille-Thseusi Robert, president of the feminist and anti-racism committee, Bamko-Cran.
Statues are the tip of the iceberg, observes the author of a story in DW, the German news service, and part of a broad anti-racism struggle which the Congolese community and other African descendants have been highlighting for decades.
“In West Flanders there is a lot of racism, but it’s underneath,” Antoine Itoko told DW. “We cannot get the same job opportunities even if we have equal diplomas.” He joined the Black Lives Matter demonstration in Brussels on June 7 to commemorate Congolese victims as well as one of his friends, Moïse “Lamine” Bangoura, a victim of police violence in 2018.
Education Minister Caroline Désir wants to make courses on the history of the DR Congo and colonialism compulsory, however the modification of school curricula can take up to two years.
Meanwhile, the organization Reparons L’Histoire (Let’s repair history) has launched a petition to remove all the statues of Belgian King Leopold in Brussels by June 30. The online petition aimed to collect 25,000 signatures, but now counts over 80,000 names.
Many question the sincerity of the Belgian authorities. It took over 13 years of repeated requests by several organizations to select a location for the only square in Belgium dedicated to Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was finally inaugurated in 2018 to coincide with the 58th anniversary of Congolese independence.
“We do not think it was a victory at all, but just peanuts done for electoral campaigning,” says Cafe Congo’s Gia Abrassart. She describes the square as a “small and invisible square close to a taxi station,” just a few hundred meters from one of the big statues of King Leopold II.
This month, a mayoral press release announced that plans for a statue have been abandoned.
“There will be no statue,” said Wafaa Hammich, spokesperson for Mayor Philippe Close. “There was no agreement about that, it was only a lead [to explore] — we will keep to the square and the memorial plaque.”
“We understand that we need to put continuous pressure on the Belgian government,” commented Abrassart. “Taking down statues is just the first metaphor for this long process of rewriting the shared history of Belgium and Congo.”
SOURCE: Global Information Network