(Amsterdam) King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands issued his official apology on Saturday for his country and his dynasty’s involvement in slavery, saying he was affected “very personally”.
Today I stand before you as a king and a member of the government. “Today I personally apologize to you,” said Willem-Alexander, referring to the chants marking the 150th anniversary of the emancipation of slaves in the former Dutch colonies, in Oosterpark, Amsterdam.
These celebrations were attended by thousands of descendants of slaves in the former South American colony of Suriname as well as the Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao.
“I feel this deeply in my heart and in my soul,” the king said, before adding, “The slave trade and slavery are crimes against humanity.”
Kings of the House of Orange [dont descend le monarque actuel, NDLR] Did nothing to stop him. “Today I apologize for this inaction,” Willem-Alexander added.
Celebrations marking the true end of slavery in the colonies take place every year in Amsterdam, a celebration called “kitty-koti”, or “breaking the chains” in Srantongo (one of the languages of Suriname).
It takes on particular significance this year after the government made a formal apology in December for the Netherlands’ slavery past.
“He asked for forgiveness from the people of Suriname,” welcomed AFP Abmena Resan, 67, who attended the ceremony, wearing a colorful tunic and traditional headdress emblazoned with the Surinamese flag. He added, “Maybe now he can do something for black people.”
“It’s a start,” said Lulu Helder, a teacher and descendant of slaves, who watched the king’s speech a few kilometers away, live on national television. “We need compensation,” she said.
“He took responsibility, so I forgive him,” said Arnolda Fall, 50, dressed in a traditional slave costume.
The slaves’ descendants asked the king to issue an official apology.
At the same time, Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra was in Suriname for a memorial service in the former colony. Gather in front of the Kwakwe Monument – a statue of a slave breaking his chains – in the capital Paramaribo and attend mass in a church built in 1778, where the official abolition of slavery was supposed to be announced 160 years ago.
“I apologize on behalf of the Dutch government […] Slavery is a crime against humanity in which the Netherlands played an important role. “In many places in the world, traces of this painful past are still visible,” he said over and over again.
“It is a sign of goodwill to realize the extent of suffering […] Our response to the apology should have as much historical value as the Dutch apology. The President of Suriname, Chan Santokhi, replied, “We have no choice, because the wounds of three hundred years of slavery cannot be easily healed.”
“Crime against humanity”
Since the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, the Netherlands has engaged in an often difficult debate about its colonial past that made it one of the richest countries in the world.
Slavery helped finance the Dutch Golden Age, a period of prosperity through sea trade in the 16th centuryH xviiH Centuries. About 600,000 Africans fled the country, mostly to South America and the Caribbean.
According to a report by the Dutch Ministry of the Interior, between 1675 and 1770, the colonies brought the royal family the equivalent of 545 million euros, at a time when slavery was widespread.
The current king’s distant ancestors, William III, William IV, and William V of Orange-Nassau, were among the greatest beneficiaries of what the report described as a “deliberate, structural, and prolonged involvement” in slavery.
Prime Minister Rutte made a formal apology to the government in December for the Dutch state’s role in 250 years of slavery, which he called a “crime against humanity”.
While the official abolition of slavery in the Dutch colonies dates back 160 years, its actual application is only 150 years old.
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