The mayor of Amsterdam within the Netherlands has formally apologised for town’s function in slavery, because the nation reckons with its colonial previous.
Femke Halsema mentioned it was “time to engrave the great injustice of colonial slavery into our city’s identity”.
The apology got here throughout an annual vacation that marks the top of slavery in Dutch colonies within the 1800s.
Last yr town council voted for an apology and an advisory panel has informed the nationwide authorities to comply with go well with.
“I apologise for the active involvement of the Amsterdam city council in the commercial system of colonial slavery and the worldwide trade in enslaved people,” Ms Halsema mentioned in a speech on Thursday.
The mayor mentioned whereas it was proper to acknowledge the legacy of slavery, “not a single Amsterdammer alive today is to blame for the past”.
The apology places the left-wing mayor at odds with centre-right Dutch caretaker prime minister Mark Rutte, who’s at the moment in talks to kind a brand new authorities.
Mr Rutte rejected requires a proper state apology final yr as protests triggered by the loss of life of George Floyd in police custody swept the globe.
In parliamentary debate on racism, Mr Rutte mentioned such an apology may polarise society and convey again painful reminiscences for some.
However, his authorities did fee an unbiased advisory panel to make non-binding suggestions on problems with race and discrimination.
The panel launched its report on Thursday. The report mentioned the nation’s consciousness of its colonial previous was poor and really helpful it’s taught in faculties.
The panel suggested the federal government to apologise for Dutch involvement within the international slave commerce, which it mentioned was liable for crimes in opposition to humanity.
Apologies for slavery have been issued by different nations, together with the UK, the US and France.
What was the Dutch function within the slave commerce?
The transatlantic slave commerce concerned the pressured motion of individuals from the African continent to the Americas between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.
During this period, the Netherlands had intensive colonies within the areas now generally known as Indonesia, South Africa, Curaçao, New Guinea – and past.
Colonising these areas helped the Netherlands grow to be a worldwide financial energy. Its wealth grew over 200 years by means of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), which performed a number one function within the slave commerce.
The firm operated a sequence of buying and selling outposts in West Africa, from which slaves have been shipped throughout the Atlantic.
Amsterdam’s metropolis council says a few of its most senior officers have been deeply concerned within the slave commerce.
Ms Halsema mentioned analysis confirmed that “from the end of the 16th Century until well into the 19th Century, Amsterdam’s involvement was direct, worldwide, large-scale, multifaceted and protracted”.
The Dutch nationwide museum, the Rijksmuseum, says the Netherlands was one of many final nations to abolish slavery. It did so in 1863, when slavery was formally abolished in the principle Dutch colony of Surinam in South America.
The anniversary of that second is well known each 1 July and is called Keti Koti, which suggests Chains Broken.
What response has there been to the mayor’s apology?
Dutch TV presenter Charisa Chotoe tweeted that she was deeply touched by the apology.
Speaking to Dutch broadcaster NOS, researcher Pepijn Brandon mentioned the apology was a step in the direction of addressing racial injustices nonetheless felt in the present day.
“Of course it wasn’t the case that when slavery was abolished that inequality suddenly vanished,” mentioned Mr Brandon, a professor on the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. “Colonialism carried on and the hierarchy that existed at the time between white and black people continued at important moments.”
But others questioned the importance and the legitimacy of the apology.
“How can an apology be the basis for a just future – where the current inhabitants have nothing to do with it – nor suffer under it?,” historian and political commentator Wierd Duk tweeted.