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How Europe can Mend Relations with Africa

A new conversation is urgently required if the EU is to salvage flagging efforts to launch a so-called partnership of equals with African nations. And it is needed, too, if European governments are to put relations with African European citizens on a sounder and more respectful footing. There are encouraging signs. In Germany, BLM protests injected momentum into efforts to change street names with colonial-era or racist references. In France, the armed forces ministry provided local authorities with a guide to 100 Africans who fought for France in the Second World War, so that streets and squares may be named after them. President Macron had, in 2019 during a visit to Ivory Coast, denounced the French “hegemonic view and the trappings of colonialism”, which he said were “a grave mistake – a fault of the republic”. In Belgium, authorities responded to protests by removing at least some public monuments to King Leopold II, whose forces seized Congo in the late 19th century and ran an exploitative regime that led to the deaths of millions. And in an unprecedented step last summer, Belgium’s King Philippe, an indirect descendent of Leopold II, wrote to the Congolese president, Félix Tshisekedi, to offer his deepest regret for the “humiliation and suffering” inflicted during Belgium’s colonial occupation of the country. The pain of the past, said the king, was “revived by the discrimination that is still all too present in our societies”.