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How Belgium’s Rule Changed the Childhoods of these Congolese Women

Torn from their parents, brought up in a convent then abandoned when the Belgian Congo gained independence. Five mixed-race women, among the last living witnesses to one of the darkest chapters in Europe’s colonial history in Africa, are now seeking justice. Lea, Monique, Noelle, Simone and Marie-Jose are now more than 70 years old, mothers and grandmothers in their own right, but they can never forget their childhoods. They were all born to black Congolese mothers and white settler fathers in the Kasai region in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Because they were mixed-race, they were taken from their mothers in infancy and isolated in a convent. They accuse Belgium of child kidnapping, with the complicity of the Church. Thousands of children like them were taken by Belgian authorities in Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. In April 2019, the Belgian government issued an official apology. Prime Minister Charles Michel recognized a system of racial segregation as well as the pain of the victims. The defendants hope that their lawsuit will lead to a law recognizing colonial crimes and offer financial compensation to the victims whose life, like theirs, was destroyed.