Sunday, February 23, 2003

Jpost print edition continues the Belgium backlash: a long article describes King Leopold II's exploitation of the Congo around the (previous) turn of the century - including the massive use of slave labor, cruelties like amputations and a "human zoo" of Congolese at the 1897 World Exhibition in Brussels. In 1961 Belgians kidnapped Congo Prime Minister Patrice Lumemba and two others, killed them, and dissolved their remains with acid.

Belgians were largely unaware of their colonial record, according to the article by Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, until the publication of a book by American Adam Hochschild in 1997. But ...
While Hochschild's book, and the Lumumba parliamentary commission, undoubtedly led to an unprecedented amount of soul-searching, there are no signs of self-flagellation. The strongest language Gryseels will use is this: "There is absolutely no question that, seen with the moral standards of today, the period of the Congo Free state saw practices that are completely unacceptable."

Belgian journalist Colette Braeckman is quoted from Le Monde Diplomatique as saying that the "ethical impetus" of the Belgian court trial against Ariel Sharon "undoubtedly has its source in the heavy colonial past which confronts Belgium". It's more likely an extension of the domineering colonial impulse.

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