Sixty years ago today the Democratic Republic of Congo gained its independence from Belgium.
Jean-Claude Ilunga helps to run a support group for the Congolese community in Belgium called Les Amis du Congo Solidarite.
He was born in Congo, but moved to Belgium around 40 years ago and has made his life here.
Like a lot of people, I suppose I am a mixture of Belgian and Congolese.
I have lived in Belgium for 40 years now. My children feel Belgian, but I am split. I was born in Congo, and I also feel Congolese. I have family there and I can’t be indifferent to the suffering I see there. But my life is here, in Belgium.
Is this a racist country? I think I would have to say yes. Many Congolese people here are academics, with high qualifications from universities in Belgium. In our Congolese community we have doctors, engineers, political scientists, psychologists. They are trained in so many areas, but they are unemployed. The doors are often closed to us.
Why? Simply because their skin colour doesn’t fit. Nobody tells you that openly so instead they say: “I’m sorry, sir, but you don’t fit”. Or else they’ll say that you’re overqualified, even when you’re saying that you just want the job, because you have to feed your wife and kids.
When I walk around Brussels, I see beautiful buildings, I see statues and monuments and all of them were paid for using money taken from Congo.Today Belgium is one of the richest countries in Europe, but all that money came from my country.
These buildings were paid for by King Leopold II. He took Congo as his own personal possession and made himself rich. His rules weren’t about working for a fair wage – oh no, this was forced labour, where the workers were treated like slaves.
You had to reach a certain quota – say, a certain quantity of rubber. And if you didn’t reach that, then it was a bullet in the head or they cut off your hands or feet, or took your wife. Killed her. Maybe burnt down your village. Under Leopold, my country was ruined while he took the money to build his royal palace, and his royal gardens.
It is dishonest on the part of Belgium, or those who run Belgium, not to recognise that if we have these buildings in Belgium today, if we have enough wealth in Belgium today, it is all thanks to Congo.
Because if there were not Congo, Belgium would not be a rich country. Today, Belgium is one of the richest countries in Europe. But people should ask themselves where all this fortune comes from?
The answer is that it comes from Congolese blood. Belgium’s riches came at the cost of so much pain in the Congo – so much suffering and misery. Millions died. In my opinion, we should call this what it was – genocide.
And we have never heard a word of apology from the Belgian government. Now we need that – a recognition that something terrible happened . I want the government to accept that Belgium, and its king, created a lot of suffering in the Congo.
The Congolese did not need people to come and rule them, but at the time it was presented as if King Leopold came to Congo to bring civilisation.
Is it enough to just say sorry and ask for forgiveness? No, but it would be the first step. The second stage is that it is absolutely necessary that children are taught the reality of what happened in Congo. When these children pass by the royal palace, they have to know, to understand that Congolese gave their blood for that.
We have to teach this at school so the kids will have a different vision and will start looking at the Congolese differently. There will be, in my humble opinion, a little respect that will become entrenched in people’s heads.
And thirdly, Belgium must consider making some reparations. I cannot say here how many millions or billions Belgium has to pay, but one thing is certain: the Belgian government has the opportunity to say that it wants to fix what was done.
Belgium could fix the electricity system, for instance. Or build hospitals, or a proper railway network. It will never replace the millions who were killed, but it will be something.
People ask me about the statues. There are plenty of statues of Leopold II in this country and my opinion is that they belong in museums.
Imagine if there was a man who slaughtered your family, but he was rich and gave money to the city. Imagine how it would feel if they made a statue of him, and you had to walk past it every day.
People say it’s different – that Leopold was in the past, that he didn’t even go to Congo. But he gave the orders. It’s because of him that the Congolese were slaughtered, that children had their hands and feet cut off.
But we do need to keep them – to display them in museums as a warning. They remind people of the bad things that have happened. And perhaps to give the Congolese the respect they deserve.
Elephant deaths: Mystery after hundreds of animals die in Botswana | World News
Officials in Botswana are investigating the unexplained deaths of at least 350 elephants in just a few weeks.
Elephants were first reported to have died in the Okavango Delta, northern Botswana at the beginning of May.
By mid-June, the number of deaths stood at 169, but this figure has now more than doubled, with an aerial survey revealing 70% of the carcasses centred on watering holes.
The cause of the deaths is not yet known, but the government claims the two most likely possibilities – poisoning by humans and anthrax – have already been ruled out.
Dr Niall McCann, director of conservation at the UK-based charity National Park Rescue, described the situation as a “catastrophic die-off” and called for a further probe.
He told Sky News: “At least 350 elephants have died – the scale of it is astonishing.
“Botswana is home to a third of Africa’s elephants and 10% of those are in this region, so this could have a real impact on the global population.”
Locals claim both male and female elephants of all ages have died.
They have also reported seeing the creatures stumbling around in circles before they die, suggesting they may have been neurologically impaired.
Dr McCann said experts on the ground are not yet sure whether the substance behind the deaths is naturally-occurring or administered by humans.
He added: “It could make its way to humans and that’s very worrying at a time when the transmission of diseases from animals to humans is very much on people’s minds because of the coronavirus.”
People living nearby say they have seen several more elephants looking weak, which means the number of deaths could increase further.
Dr McCann said it is the “most shocking conservation event of his lifetime”.
Elephants and eco-tourism account for a huge part of Botswana’s GDP, which means this could risk an economic crisis as well as a public health one.
“We desperately need to get to the bottom of this,” he said.
The main threat to Africa’s elephant population is poaching, but in Botswana, numbers have grown from 80,000 in the late 1990s to 130,000 in recent years.
Sir Everton Weekes dies aged 95: Cricket mourns the loss of a ‘legend, hero and icon’ | World News
Legendary West Indian batsman Sir Everton Weekes has died at the age of 95.
The Barbados-born star was feted as one of ‘the three Ws’ alongside Sir Clyde Walcott and Sir Frank Worrell, with the trio representing one of the game’s most formidable batting units for more than a decade after each made their Test debuts weeks apart in 1948.
Weekes continues to hold the record for consecutive Test centuries, making five in a row in his first year of international cricket – four against India and one against Sir Gubby Allen’s England.
His famous streak might have been extended to six had he not been run out somewhat controversially for 90 in Madras.
He played a total of 48 Tests, scoring 4,455 runs with an average of 58.61, hitting 15 hundreds.
Worrell and Walcott, who died in 1967 and 2006 respectively, are both buried at the 3Ws Stadium just outside Bridgetown and a plot has long been left vacant for their long-time teammate should his family choose to accept it.
Announcing the news, Cricket West Indies (CWI) tweeted: “Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of an icon. A legend, our hero, Sir Everton Weekes.
“Our condolences go out to his family, friends and many fans around the world. May he rest in peace.”
The West Indian Players’ Association added its voice to a chorus of condolences, tweeting: “We salute a great West Indies icon; Sir Everton made an invaluable contribution to the sport, his country and the region, we were blessed to have him among us, may his soul rest in peace.”
England, who are currently playing host to the West Indies Test squad, posted: “A true great of the game. Our thoughts and condolences go out to Sir Everton Weekes’ family and friends.”
Weekes was awarded his knighthood in 1995, following his two friends in earning the honour, and the Caribbean’s four-day tournament is played for the Headley/Weekes Trophy – honouring him alongside another master batsman, George Headley.
Among his four children, one – David Murray – followed his lead by turning out for the West Indies and earned 19 Test caps as a wicketkeeper between 1978 and 1982.
Hong Kong: UK summons Chinese ambassador over ‘deep concern’ for new security law | UK News
The Foreign Office has summoned the Chinese ambassador to make clear the UK’s “deep concern” over the new Hong Kong national security law.
Sir Simon made clear the UK’s “deep concern” over the new law, which was proposed a month ago and came into law at 11pm in Hong Kong on Monday – without the details being published first.
He reiterated that the law breaches the Sino-British Joint Declaration which was signed in 1984 and gave Hong Kong almost full autonomy for 50 years after Britain handed the territory back to China in 1997.
It is only the second time a Chinese ambassador has been called to the Foreign Office about Hong Kong since 1984.
The new security law drawn up by Beijing makes secessionist, subversive, or “terrorist” activities illegal in Hong Kong – as well as foreign intervention in the city’s internal affairs.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab offered 2.9 million people in Hong Kong citizenship rights on Wednesday as police in Hong Kong started arresting peaceful protesters for carrying leaflets supporting Hong Kong independence on the 23rd anniversary of the handover.
Accusing China of a “grave and deeply disturbing” breach of the joint declaration, he said the “bespoke” visa route would let British Nationals Overseas – people who were Hong Kong citizens before 1997 – and their dependents come from Hong Kong to work or study in the UK for five years.
They will then be able to apply for settled status and – if successful – can apply for citizenship one year later.
But Victor Gao, who was former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s translator, said he “seriously doubts” the British government will follow through on its promise.
He told Sky News: “They didn’t do it in 1997 and I don’t think they’ll do it now.
“If you compare Hong Kong to Britain, lots of people in HK love living there because it’s a good place to do business, very low taxes, people won’t choose to leave.”
He said that anybody who cares for Hong Kong’s future would support the new law and claimed lots of Hong Kongers do because they are fed up of the past 12 months of “violence, anarchy and an attack on the rule of law”.
Mr Gao insisted the right to protest and demonstrate and the freedom of speech and assembly are “fully protected” under the new law, despite 370 people being arrested on Wednesday – including 10 for “breaching” the new law.
Emily Lau, a former chair of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, said she thinks some people will be “very keen” to take Mr Raab up on his offer, but “certainly not millions” as she hopes other allies such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US will also help.
She told Sky News: “Certainly, I hope there will be an international lifeboat scheme to help the very frightened people of Hong Kong.”
Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last governor under British rule, said the new law was a “complete overturning of One Country, Two Systems” – the principle under which the declaration was formed.
He called the law “Orwellian”, said it will damage Hong Kong’s economy, and said that the UK and its allies need to stand up to China.
Lord Patten told Sky News: “We should work with them, make clear that when China behaves reasonably that’s fine and we’ll work with them, when they behave badly we’ll call them out, there will be consequences.
“There has to be, otherwise the 21st century will become increasingly unstable, increasingly less prosperous and increasingly dangerous.”
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