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A Group of Mixed-race Elderly People are Fighting the Belgian State for Recognition and Reparations

Among the countless abuses committed by the Belgian state during its colonial occupation of the Congo from 1908 to 1960, taking over from the exploitative and violent rule of King Leopold II which killed millions of Congolese, and its control from 1922 to 1962 under a League of Nations mandate in Ruanda-Urundi (today Rwanda and Burundi), is the little-known systematic abduction of biracial children from their maternal families. This abduction policy has brought lifelong pain and consequences for the Métis – as they are known in French – who have tried to piece together stolen identities and histories. In March 2018, an 11-point resolution (PDF) was unanimously adopted by Belgium’s federal parliament that recognised this segregation policy and took a big step towards measures enabling Métis to access their personal files, resolve issues faced by many who do not have a birth certificate and facilitate family reunions. In April 2019, then-Prime Minister Charles Michel apologised to mixed-race people for their targeted segregation, abduction and suffering. The Catholic Church in Belgium has also apologised. But there has been little progress since. Nothing has changed, say Métis. In a country that has yet to confront its brutal colonial history, biracial children stolen from their African mothers more than half-a-century ago want Belgium to answer for its past, a campaign of systemic racism and abduction and to address the deep wounds it inflicted. For them, it is a fight not just about the past, but also one to build an equal future.