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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Women taken from Congo sue Belgium over forced separations


Five women who were born in Congo and separated from their mothers by the colonial authorities are suing Belgium for crimes against humanity.

The mixed-race women were taken from their black mothers at birth solely because of the colour of their skin 70 years ago.

Belgium ruled Central Africa from the nineteenth century until its independence in 1960.

During colonial rule, millions of Africans died.

Most mixed-race children were not recognised by their fathers and were not allowed to mix with the rest of society at the time. Thousands were placed in orphanages or other religious institutions under harsh conditions.

The Belgian state, on the other hand, questions whether their plight constituted a crime against humanity.

When the Republic of the Congo, as it was then known, gained independence in 1960, the five women were not brought to Belgium.

Léa, Monique, Simone, Nolle, and Marie-Josée are seeking reparations from the former colonial power in the amount of €50,000 (£42,312; $57,964).

They also want an expert to be appointed to assess additional moral damages.

In 2019, the Belgian state issued an official apology for its actions in the Congo, with then-Prime Minister Charles Michel admitting there had been “targeted segregation.”

However, Monique Bitu Bingi, one of the five women who have gone to court, told AFP: “We were annihilated. Apologies are simple, but when you do something, you must accept responsibility for it.”

All five women were born between 1945 and 1950 and were separated from their mothers when they were two to four years old.

According to legal documents, their fathers refused to recognise the children, and colonial authorities threatened their mothers with retaliation if they did not let them go.

On Thursday, the case will be heard in Brussels, with the possibility of further hearings.

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