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US News: The DRC launches a National Commission on Congolese Cultural Heritage

DRC: Possible Removal of Thousands of Jobs in the Firm Kamoto Copper Company

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Sculptures au Musée royal de l'Afrique centrale à Tervuren en Belgique, le 3 août 2018. © Virginia Mayo Sculptures at the Royal Central African Museum in Tervuren, Belgium, August 3, 2018.

The DRC chose the theme "Art" , culture and heritage "for its rotating presidency of the African Union. This throws a new light on the issue of African heritage enabled in mass towards Europe during the colonial period. Belgium will deposit beginning 2022 a bill to start a refund.

with our correspondent in Brussels, Pierre Benazet

for the Congo, it is in Belgium that the vast majority of works is in Belgium. The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Félix Tshisekedi, therefore announced the launch of a national commission on the repatriation of Congolese cultural heritage.

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For their part, the Belgian authorities have already begun the movement. Belgium has decided to take the bull by the horns not to expose oneself to controversy regarding punctual restitution decisions. There has not yet been a restitution because the current federal government has decided to adopt a systematic approach. For the moment, all objects are small and identified, and according to their provenance they will be automatically eligible for restitution.

The Belgian Government plans to deposit, early 2022, a bill to make automatic refunds of African objects: a considerable number will be decommissioned and will no longer be part of the inalienable heritage of the kingdom.

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up to 40,000 parts potentially eligible

85,000 Congolese objects populate the collections of "the Africa Museum" in Tervuren, Brussels doors. Naguère "Royal Museum of Central Africa" ​​is the former "Colonies Palace" launched in 1897 by King Leopold II, the monarch at the origin of colonization. There are three countries in the Belgian colonial past, Congo-Kinshasa from 1885, and the double protectorate of Ruanda-Urundi after the 1918 German defeat. But it is mainly the Democratic Republic of the Congo that come from the vast majority of works present in the Kingdom.

Nearly half, or 35,000 to 40,000 of these objects could end -rightly find eligible for a refund in Congo. The easiest will be for objects whose provenance is clearly doubtful: for example, objects acquired with already illegal methods at the colonial era as "looting, hostage or profanation". We begin here to have a first assessment but 1,500 to 2,000 pieces are already considered poorly acquired according to this first criterion.

The heritage will have to return from Belgium but in an organized way. There should be an effort to reconstruct representative collections of certain ethnic groups. The rest will take longer because the new Congolese National Museum can only accommodate 12,000 pieces in optimal conservation conditions.

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