Two parties in the Dutch government — D66 and ChristenUnie — called on the government to make a formal apology for the country’s role in the slave trade, as the Netherlands on Wednesday marked 157 years since it abolished slavery.
Rob Jetten, leader of the social-liberal D66, said “we do not yet take historical responsibility for our history.” He added, “That is only possible if we acknowledge the suffering of many people and apologize for our own actions.” ChristenUnie leader Gert-Jan Segers said the Netherlands “must reconcile itself with a past in which inhuman suffering has been inflicted.”
Although the government has in the past expressed regret for the Dutch role in slavery, it has never formally apologized.
During the annual day to commemorate the abolition of slavery, the government announced plans for a nationwide dialogue to confront the country’s links to the slave trade. The dialogue would focus on “how the history of slavery still influences our daily lives,” Education Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven said during a ceremony in Amsterdam. “I hope that it will open the eyes of many Dutch people, young and old.”
Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema said the Black Lives Matter movement had brought about a tipping point and created “an unstoppable new people’s movement.”
“It’s a movement that is not destroying traditions, but helping to improve traditions and create new traditions, that doesn’t wipe out our past, but adds new histories,” she said.
On Tuesday, on the 60th anniversary of the Congo’s independence from Belgium, the king issued a statement expressing his “profound regret” for the wounds of the colonial past, and the “acts of violence and cruelty [that] were committed” in the Congo under Belgian occupation.