Excuses for the slave trade and slavery multiply, with or without controversy over “repentance” in the former colonial metropolises. Who presented it – or not – and how? Chronological overview, starting with the latest facts.
♦ Amsterdam, ABN Amro and the central bank apologize to the Netherlands, not yet the government
The Hague postponed until the end of June an apology planned for July 1, the anniversary of the abolition of slavery, 1863, in its former colonies (Suriname, Caribbean, Indonesia). It takes a long time for the authorities to sort out the past. Responsibility for the almost total deportation of Dutch Jews was acknowledged in late 2020, with the official and unexpected apology from Prime Minister Mark Rutte. In slavery, he believes that there is a risk of “polarization” of society. Only 35% of Dutch people support such an excuse, according to a One Today survey.
We will have to wait until the autumn to find out whether the apologies, which were recommended in 2021 by a special committee set up by the government, will be made or not. The governing coalition is divided. The right believes that “the present cannot be held responsible for the actions of its ancestors”, while the center and Christian parties plead for a “gesture of reconciliation”.
The city of Amsterdam, led by environmentalist Femke Halsema, and ABN Amro Bank have taken the lead. They apologized for their participation in slavery, the first in July 2021 and the second in April 2022. The Central Bank followed after 1 July, after “deep remorse” which was probably not enough in February 2022. The public institution finally apologized apologized and admitted to having paid compensation to its directors and planters after the abolition of slavery.
♦ Belgium: Royal “regrets” and apologizes for slavery
Belgium, through the voice of its King Philippe, issued “deep remorse” in June 2021 and June 2022 for colonization in the Congo – which includes slavery that had free rein there, especially in the rubber plantations during Leopold’s reign. II. “Apologies” were made on June 20 by Prime Minister Alexander de Croo for the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the father of independence in the current Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
At the end of October 2021, ten experts commissioned by a special parliamentary commission produced a report on the colonial past recommending damages, such as presenting an official apology and returning stolen works. It is in the area of restitution that the most convincing progress has been made so far, pending the completion of the work of the Parliamentary Commission set up in December 2021 on the colonial past in Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.
♦ Crown apologizes to UK
When he visited Jamaica on March 23, Prince William made his solemn apologies on behalf of the United Kingdom for the slave trade. “I want to express my deep sorrow. Slavery was abominable and it should never have happened,” the Duke of Cambridge acknowledged.
The monarchy follows in the footsteps of the central bank and large corporations such as Lloyds Bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland and the brewer Greene King, which in June 2020 acknowledged benefiting from the expulsion of more than 10 million Africans between the 15th and nineteenth centuries. century. All this in the light of global protests against racism following the assassination of George Floyd in the United States, but also of revelations made by the “Legacies of British slave ownership” database at University College London (UCL).
♦ Germany apologizes for genocide, but not slavery
Germany has so far not taken a clear position on slavery or its colonial past. In 2004, it acknowledged the genocides committed in the early 20th century in Namibia against the Nama and Herero people, and apologized for them on May 28, 2021. The key funded 1.1 billion euro development projects over 30 years. A way to circumvent major claims for damages, on the model of the $ 820 million (1952 value) paid to Israel after World War II.
♦ Spanish refusal
Spain, for its part, refuses to publicly apologize for the colonial past, slavery or genocide of the Aztecs and Mayans. Apologies eagerly demanded from the King of Spain twice, in March 2019 and August 2021, by Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, President of Mexico, and by Nicolas Maduros Venezuela 2021. Madrid is categorical: it is three times no. The Socialist government of Spain “firmly rejected the content” of Obrador’s first letter to King Felipe VI, declaring that “the arrival of the Spaniards, 500 years ago, in present-day Mexican territory cannot be judged in the light of contemporary considerations”.
♦ The subject is not discussed in Portugal
Portugal was the first power to engage in the transatlantic slave trade and its African colonies were for settlement. But at the moment there is no question of presenting any excuse.
♦ In Italy, an apology limited to Libya
In 2008, Silvio Berlusconi’s Italy offered a solemn apology to Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya and promised to pay $ 5 billion over 25 years in compensation for colonial crimes during the first half of the 20th century. In return, Tripoli’s commitment to combat illegal migration was received. But about slavery, which is still relevant both in Libya and in Italy with the modern trade in migrants, nothing.
♦ Complete apology from the nation to the United States
Bill Clinton expressed “regret” for slavery during a trip to Uganda in 1998, while Congress passed a resolution offering an “apology” to African Americans in 2008. The election of Barack Obama led the Senate to apologize “on behalf of the nation” during slavery and segregation, in June 2009. In the United States, the debates focus on damages, which are being studied by a parliamentary commission.
♦ A crime against humanity for France 2001
Instead of apologizing, France passed a law bearing the name of the then socialist deputy Christiane Taubira on May 10, 2001, recognizing as a crime against humanity “the slave trade with blacks and the slavery of African peoples, Indians, Malagasy and Native Americans, committed in America and the Caribbean, in the Indian Ocean and in Europe, from the 15th century. ”Since then, slavery has been included in the school’s history curricula and each year the abolition is officially celebrated on May 10. On this occasion, Socialist President François Hollande declared in 2013 that the slave trade was an “outrage that France made against France, for its own glory, for its own greatness”, as well as a “monstrous enterprise that reduced people in the beast. State”.
► Also to listen and read: