Congolese Women Taken From Mothers Seek Belgian Reparations Decades Later

In Summary

Five mixed-race Congolese women are suing the Belgian government to get reparations for being snatched them from their mothers when they were children. 

Five biracial women who were born in Congo and taken away from their Black mothers when they were young have filed a crimes against humanity lawsuit against the Belgian state for its actions between 1908 and 1960, per the Associated Press

Lea Tavares Mujinga, Monique Bintu Bingi, Noelle Verbeken, Simone Ngalula and Marie-Jose Loshi were born while the country was under Belgian colonial authority, and mixed-race children, or “metis,” were removed from their families and placed in religious institutions and homes. They were all born between 1945 and 1950 and ranged from 2 to 4 years of age. 

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“My clients were abducted, abused, ignored, expelled from the world,” lawyer Michele Hirsch said Thursday as a court in the Belgian capital examined the civil case, per AP. “They are living proof of an unconfessed state crime, and soon there will be no one left to testify.” 

The Belgian government apologized in 2019 for the part it played in the removal of thousands of newborns from their African mothers. Last year, a reigning king expressed contrition for the bloodshed perpetrated by the previous colonial authority for the first time in the country’s history. 

The fathers in all five cases did not exercise parental authority, according to legal documents, and Belgian authorities threatened the girls’ Congolese families with retaliation if they refused to let them go. They were forced to live in harsh conditions with about 20 other mixed-race females and Indigenous orphans and were allegedly abandoned by both the state and the church after Congo gained independence, per AP. 

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Hirsch said the women are doing this for their children and grandchildren “because the trauma is transmitted from generation to generation.” 

Each of the five women have asked for 50,000 euros, or $55,000, in compensation, and the court is expected to reach a decision within six weeks.

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