Implementation of the 'Metis' parliamentary resolution continues
Faced with its colonial past in Central Africa, Belgium has decided to embark on a necessary journey of research, truth and memory. The research project concerning the segregation suffered by the metis from Belgian colonization for the implementation of the parliamentary resolution 'Metis' is taking place in two phases. After a first phase, which started on September 1, 2019, a cooperation agreement has just been concluded between the FPS Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation and the State Archives, on a detailed historical research on the role of the authorities in the way metis were treated during the colonial period.
The history of metis children during the colonial period is a particularly sensitive issue in human terms, given the suffering and injustices suffered, and the long wait for recognition of this experience and its consequences.
In March 2018, the House of Representatives unanimously adopted the "Resolution on the segregation suffered by mixed-race people from Belgian colonization in Africa" (known as the 'Metis' Resolution). The implementation of the demands included in this resolution is coordinated by the FPS Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation. In recent years, the Belgian government has apologized on various issues related to Belgium's colonial past. Regarding metis, an apology on behalf of the federal government was presented in April 2019 by Prime Minister Charles Michel, for the suffering and injustice suffered by people of mixed ancestry born during the colonial period in Central Africa.
In line with the requests made in the resolution, a research project on the segregation suffered by mixed-race people born during the Belgian colonial period is currently being conducted.
The first phase of the project, planned to last four years, began on September 1, 2019, under the joint direction of the FPS Foreign Affairs, which is funding the research, and the State Archives. The main objective of this first phase of the research is to list all the sources that document the individual and collective paths of the metis, and to offer those who wish to do so the possibility of accessing the archival files that concern them, in order to reconstruct their path and family history. More details are available at: www.metis.arch.be.
The second phase of the research project, also scheduled to last four years, will focus on detailed historical research on the role of the authorities in the treatment of mestizos during the colonial era in the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi (now the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi). An agreement has just been concluded between the FPS Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation and the State Archives, which will jointly conduct this project. The results obtained during this research, financially supported by Foreign Affairs (€440,000), Development Cooperation (€300,000) and Federal Science Policy (€780,000), will result in the publication of a study, the results of which will be presented to the House of Representatives, in accordance with the 'Metis' Resolution.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès: "With the launch of the second phase of the research project, we are responding to the legitimate appeal of metis people born in the context of colonization. We are thus pursuing the government's commitment to support the collective work of memory while facilitating the reconstruction of their individual history and identity. This phase represents another important step towards a better knowledge of our history, thus concretizing the wish of a society strengthened by the awareness of its past and resolutely turned towards a future of tolerance."
Minister of Development Cooperation and Major Cities Policy Meryame Kitir: "What happened to these people and their families in the past is hugely unjust. They have a right to the truth. With this project, we want to help restore family ties and make sure everyone has a view of exactly what happened. I hope this initiative can provide them some support for this endeavour."
State Secretary in charge of Scientific Policy Thomas Dermine:" I am convinced that this second phase of the project will contribute to a better knowledge and recognition of a painful and unknown part of colonial and post-colonial history. It is important to respond in a professional and humane manner to the legitimate requests of the metis and their descendants who wish to retrace their personal history and find their origins. I would like to congratulate the teams of the Kingdom's General Archives in charge of the project."