Video:A Historical Justice Campaign Comes to Washington, DC
On February 24, 2015, Global Citizens for Historical Justice, Reconciliation, and Restoration of Christian Values, organized a march in Washington, DC, USA under the title: Africa Shall Rise Again: Remembering 130 years of European Imperialism. The event was part of a historical justice campaign that started in Beijing, China in May 2014. The rally participants demonstrated in front of the seven embassies of the European countries, which colonized Africa over a century ago. The march began at the Embassy of Germany, at about 11:00 AM and from there continued on to the other nations diplomatic missions as follows – France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Britain. Then the grand finale was a demonstration at the Embassy of Belgium, which took place between 3:00 and 4:00 PM.
The Final Treaty Act of the Berlin Conference for Africa was officially signed on February 26, 1885. In approaching that historic anniversary the organizers felt it important to consider and evaluate the meeting’s disastrous consequences for the African peoples. Fourteen world powers were present at Berlin and approved the act – eleven major European nations along with the United States, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire. The fate of millions of Africans was decided by others while the Africans themselves were never given a voice in the matter; there was not even one African representative in Berlin. The Conference accomplished several important things: First of all, it gave possession of the Congo, a territory of over one million square miles, to one man – King Leopold II of Belgium. Secondly, it determined the rules of trade in the Congo and Niger basins. Thirdly, it set the rules for the European annexation of the African interior, which six other countries undertook in the following so-called “Scramble for Africa” period (1885-1908).
In violation of Article 6 of the Berlin Act, which called for the preservation and care of native African populations, all the seven colonial powers committed numerous crimes against the local Africans throughout the colonial period. The worst of them by far was orchestrated from Brussels, the current European Union capital, as King Leopold II of the Belgians for the sole purpose of personal profit managed the Congo Free State (1885-1908) with unprecedented brutality and cruelty while deceiving the Western world of his “humanitarian” ventures there. Leopold II is celebrated in his country as a national hero – the Builder-King – while in fact he was one of the greatest criminals in history as his regime destroyed over 10 million Congolese lives. Belgium is currently in denial of that African Holocaust perpetrated by her second monarch. Brussels also bears the heavy moral burden of the colonial crimes committed in the Belgian Congo (1908-1960).
The organizers felt it was important for the international campaign to make a stop in Washington because, the United States was the first country to grant international recognition of Leopold’s sovereignty over the Congo on April 22, 1884, and was also one of the powers that approved the Berlin Final Act.
The public event was very well organized. The Congolese Associations in America were personally contacted in a number of states and invited to join. A Press Conference was given at the National Press Club in DC on February 23, 2015 reviewing the history and its significance. Posters, banners, and slogans were made and megaphones provided. Mannequin hands were used at the demonstration at the Belgian embassy to symbolize the widely used practice of severing human hands in the Congo Free State. And while the local representatives of the Congolese diaspora were afraid or too busy to participate, the demonstrators who stood up for truth and righteousness mostly came from far away – from North Carolina and Connecticut, Canada and France, China and Bulgaria.
Declarations were written and deposited at each of the seven embassies. These declarations contained a brief info of the occasion and asked for two things from each of the first six countries: Firstly, they called for the firm denouncement of the Free State regime of Leopold II. Secondly, they demanded that each European country would apologize to their respective former African colonies. Belgium was asked besides that to remove all pubic monuments of Leopold II and publish the surviving archives of the Congo Free State. To all the seven countries forgiveness on behalf of the people of Africa was extended as well. The declarations were concluded with a verse from the Holy Bible (Micah 6:8):
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly, To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
The demonstrations at the embassies went very well and many of the embassy workers we talked to, were cooperative and had never heard of this sad and forgotten history. The embassies’ staff worked with us for the most part and things were done in decency and order. While the security guard at the French Embassy called the US Service Service on us, we were especially well received at the Italian Embassy. During the final demonstration we were invited to meet with one of the political analysts at Belgium’s embassy; he was very kind to us and tried to shift the conversation to Belgium’s current active involvement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (a normal practice by Belgian diplomats when Leopold’s regime is brought up).
The march was impactful and historic as no other group or organization has ever held such an event before. We believe it would contribute to the healing of colonial wounds in Africa and also to the moral catharsis of Europe. After 130 years of European Imperialism in Africa the account needs to be finally settled. It is time for Europe for apologize! It is time for Africa to forgive! Only after these major steps, which require humility and love, are taken then will true reconciliation be possible between our two continents!