Popular

Belgium Has Apologized to its Former African Colonies for Kidnapping their Mixed-Race Children

It's taken six decades for Rwanda, Congo and Burundi to receive this apology.

Almost six decades after Burundi, Congo and Rwanda gained independence following eight decades of colonization, Belgium has issued an apology to the Central African countries, according to the New York Times. The apology was delivered by Prime Minister Charles Michel during a plenary session of Parliament today.


During Belgium's colonial rule almost a century ago, the country kidnapped and deported children who were born to mixed-race couples. These children, known as the métis, were later forcefully adopted and most were never able to contact their biological families again. Families and entire communities across three different African countries were torn apart with irreparable repercussions still felt even today.

The family of a Congolese man by the name of Assumani Budagwa, now in his mid-sixties, was affected by Belgian's actions during that time and co-authored a resolution which urged the current Belgium government to acknowledge and apologize for its injustices against mixed-race children in the three African countries. The resolution was adopted last year into Parliament.

Speaking in the Parliamentary plenary session today, Prime Minister Charles Michel said:

"In the name of the federal government, I present our apologies to the métis stemming from the Belgian colonial era and to their families for the injustices and the suffering inflicted upon them. I also wish to express our compassion with the African mothers, from which the children were taken."

Last year, the Catholic Church apologized for their role in mistreating the métis saying, "It took till last year for this issue to be raised and the church wishes to apologize for the whole of society, not just for itself."

As one can imagine, there are many individuals in Congo as well as Belgium who are still without official birth certificates and also desire to trace back their roots and family history. The resolution by Budagwa included this reality and demanded that the Belgian government assist these individuals.

The acknowledgement is perhaps a concrete first step in addressing the numerous brutalities committed by the West during their colonial rule. However, the spokesperson for the Burundian Presidency, J.C. Karerwa Ndenzako, said the following on social media:

"Excellency Prime Minister @CharlesMichel, Apologizing over children snatched from their African mothers is not enough. The vileness of these acts is part and parcel of a far broader history. #Belgium should dialogue with #Burundi, #Rwanda & #DRC."
Music
Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

popular.