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DRC: Mixed-race women who were separated from their families in colonial Congo sue Belgium

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Léa Tavares Mujinga (à gauche) et Simone Ngalula.


Five mixed-race women who were born in the former Belgian Congo in the 1940s are suing the Belgian state for crimes against humanity.

Noëlle, Simone, Léa, Monique and Marie-José are now 70 to 74 years old.

They were all born to black Congolese mothers and white settler fathers in the Kasai region in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Because they were mixed-race, they were taken from their mothers in infancy and isolated in a convent.

"After I was born, my father went on holiday. When he came back, he couldn't find me because the Belgian state had kidnapped me," Léa Tavares Mujinga, one of the five mixed-race women suing the Belgian State, said.

" I was two years old."

They accuse Belgium of child kidnapping, with the complicity of the Church.

Thousands of children like them were taken by Belgian authorities in Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.

"We were called the children of sin," Léa Tavares Mujinga said, "because a white man was not allowed to marry a black woman. If a white man or a white woman marries a black man or a black woman, it is seen as a sin. So the child is considered as a child of prostitution."

"So that's how we were called: children of sin."

The convent's nuns were evacuated to Belgium when the country gained its independence in the 60s, but the five women, who by then where still girls, weren’t.

Left on their own with children younger than them, they were sexually assaulted by Congolese militias present in the region.

"They [the soldiers] put us all on the floor and aligned us, and they said: 'Spread your legs, we'll show you how we bring children into the world'", Simone Ngalula said, explaining that they used candles. 

"But at that moment, did we even know what it was? No. Little girls that we were, abandoned to ourselves. We were asked to do this. We were there obeying despite all the threats. It's only now that we understand. Luckily there were two or three older girls who hid, but we were younger so we let ourselves go without knowing what they were doing, whether it was right or wrong."

In April 2019, the Belgian government issued an official apology. Prime minister Charles Michel recognized a system of racial segregation as well as the pain of the victims.

The defendants hope that their lawsuit will lead to a law recognizing colonial crimes and offer financial compensation to the victims whose life, like theirs, was destroyed.