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Three new experts appointed to Congo Commission

Statue King Léopold II
20:56 09/02/2022

Three new experts have been appointed to the Belgian parliament's Congo Commission, to advise the government on how to deal with Belgium's colonial past.

“They are all experts in their fields, perfectly placed to guide our committee in our difficult and delicate task,” Chairman of the special Congolese Commission Wouter De Vriendt (Groen) told De Standaard, adding that the group was sufficiently heterogeneous to advise MPs from different angles.

The first expert, Professor Valérie Rosoux (UCL), carries out research at the National Fund for Scientific Research and has extensive experience in the field of international reconciliation processes. Rosoux was also part of the first expert group of the commission.

Olivier Kambala, who is Congolese and also joining the committee, is specialised in international criminal law and transitional justice, with 17 years of international experience with reparation, responsibility and reconciliation. He also has previous experience working for the UN and various international organisations.

The third expert is Tom Ruys of Ghent University, a specialist in public international law who teaches international law and international dispute resolution, among other subjects. Ruys is a lawyer registered with the Brussels Bar and has published papers on subjects like state liability and international sanction regimes.

Attempting to right historical wrongs

The Special Commission was set up in order to shed light on the Congo Free State (1885-1908) and on Belgium’s colonial past in Congo (1908-1960) and Rwanda and Burundi (1919-1962), with an aim to “draw lessons from it for the future”.

“Apart from researching the role of the actors involved and the economic impact on Belgium and the colonised countries, the commission will also make recommendations on reconciliation and dealing with the past,” parliament explained. 

“It will also take a close look at academic postcolonial research with special attention to the accessibility of the archives.”

Experts delivered an initial report back in October, the conclusions and recommendations of which will be debated and voted on by 22 July 2022.

Photo: The statue of King Leopold II in Place Troon © EmDee/Wikimedia

Written by Helen Lyons