Belgium takes Step towards Restitution of African Artifacts

Flag of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Belgium recently shared the inventory list of artifacts looted from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with the Congolese authorities. Are we supposed to applaud? In this day and age, what is an inventory list supposed to do? Is this a menu from which to choose what to ask for, and what not to? Are they hiding more: like giving you list A, while the real deal (list B) is kept in the vault? Does the inventory guarantee that all artifacts will be returned? Will the Royal Museum of Central Africa, with one of the largest collection of African artifacts in the world, graciously give back its collection, and lose the money from the million of visitors that come yearly? Moving forward, what will the ‘partnership’ between Belgium and Congo on this subject entail? The excerpt below is from Africa News.

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Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo has submitted a complete inventory of Congolese works of art and artefacts [to DRC’s prime minister] which potentially could be returned to the former African colony.

… “I’m not really going to take this as repairing wounds, but I want to take it as a very voluntary act of having relationships today that are not only improved, but very much calmed down in comparison with our expectations“, said Congolese prime minister Jean-Michel Kyenge.

The inventory contains around 84 thousand objects divided in categories.

The Belgian prime minister hailed the moment as a step forward in building a partnership of trust between Belgium and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This program of restitution is an important element that shows the way we want to work together. It is a partnership between our two countries and a partnership of trust“, added Belgian prime minister, Alexander De Croo.

The Royal Museum of Central Africa, opened in Brussels in 1898 is the legacy of Belgian  King Leopold II who ruled over Congo from 1885 onward.

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