Ufahamu Africa

Ep. 123: A conversation with Liliane Umubyeyi and Amah Edoh on reparations

July 17, 2021 megandemint
Ufahamu Africa
Ep. 123: A conversation with Liliane Umubyeyi and Amah Edoh on reparations
Show Notes Transcript
Earlier this year, Liliane Umubyeyi and Amah Edoh joined Cornell University's Institute for European Studies to talk about their collaborative work on reparations, especially related to Belgium and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We share selected excerpts of their talk in this week's episode, and you can find a link to watch the full panel in this week's show notes. In the news wrap, Kim and Rachel talk about the arrest of former South African President Jacob Zuma and the subsequent protests. Plus, more about COVID vaccines on the African continent. … More Ep. 123: A conversation with Liliane Umubyeyi and Amah Edoh on reparations
Rachel Beatty Riedl:

Welcome to Ufahamu Africa, a podcast about life and politics on the African continent. I'm Kim Yi Dionne, your host, and I'm joined by my co host, Rachel Beatty Riedl. Hi, Rachel. Hi, Kim. So everyone, we have a quick news wrap this week sharing a few bits on South Africa, especially about Zuma, COVID and vaccines, not t mention protest. Also, sta tuned for our listeners for new podcast mashup that's goin to be coming out soon, with Je Devermont from CSIS and Nicol Wilett from Open Societ Foundation. We'll be talkin with them about their ne foreign policy oriented podcas titled 49, where they'll b talking with journalists, civi society activists, and diplomat about the past, present an future of US policy towards Su Saharan Africa. The first 1 episodes have already droppe featuring all of Souther Africa. So we'll share the lin to that on our website Also be on the lookout for the eighth annual TMC African politics summer reading spectacular, together with my TMC co editor, Laura C. We just released the list of books that we'll be reading this summer, and as in previous summers, we here at Ufahamu Africa will record audio of those reviews and share them with our listeners. Stay tuned for that bonus content that will be released between seasons five and six. Also, there are a few bonus links that we just won't have time to talk about in today's news wrap. But that will link to on our website, including some really important pieces that we've just recently published on the Monkey Cage, like the one co authored by Emmanuel Balogun. On the role of ECOWAS in responding to the recent coup in Mali. He does a great job of kind of putting it in context of other West African coups in the recent past. And there was also a piece in the Afrobarometer TMC series on the declining state of democracy in Mauritius, and a piece by political scientists, Jeremy Horwitz, and Kristin Michelitch on Kenya's threat to expel refugees. Kim thanks for pointing our listeners to those, it's really some really important content there to be aware of. Now, on this week's Ufahamu Africa episode we're going to be featuring a conversation on questions of decolonization, repair and reparation. We have an edited excerpt of a discussion which is hosted by Ezra Akcan at the Institute fo European Studies at Cornell Un versity, which is entitled Be

gium to Congo:

colonialism, r paration, and truth and r conciliation commissions. Now t is discussion is part of a r pair and reparations series, a d Ufahamu Africa listeners might remember episodes 105 and 106 e rlier this year in Season ive that featured Souleym ne Bachir Diagne and Ccil Fromont who both spoke on a panel that was entitled prep ration of museum objects. ow here we continue on this theme with a specific focus o transitional justice on truth commissions and really on con emporary debates within an across societies about t e form of reparations in ou And our second guest from the anel is Amah Edoh, an assistant times. Our first speaker fro this panel, Dr. Liliane Umuby yi, is an expert on confli t resolution and democratic g vernance, and a research coordin tor for Avocats Sans Frontires nd has previously serv d as a consultant for he UNDP and the International C nter for transitional ju tice and other international o ganizations. She is a PhD in soc al sciences from the Ecole norma e suprieure de Cachan in Franc and a PhD in law from the Uni ersit Saint-Louis Bruxelles i Belgium rofessor of anthropology at IT. You know, her research has een supported by grants from he National Science Foundation nd the Ford Foundation. And prior to joining the academy, Dr. Edoh was in the field o public health. She holds an MS in population and internationa health from the Harvard Schoo of Public Health, and conducte research on community base responses to the HIV AID pandemic, as a Fulbright schola to Zambia, and helped to develo health literacy intervention for vulnerable South Africa youth and Veteran Affair hospitals in the US It's a really excellent conversation. I'm looking forward to sharing it with you all. Now I want to jump to the news wrap. And we have a lot of news this week out of South Africa. Many of you have probably been following the news, where at least 72 people have been killed and more than 1200 have been arrested following days of protests and riots that were really sparked by the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma. Now protests and looting have spread from Zuma's home province of KwaZulu-Natal to Johannesburg and beyond, leading to supply chain disruptions and food shortages. Now, as we mentioned earlier, former President Zuma was found guilty of contempt for failing to testify before a corruption tribunal, and then ignored a constitutional court order. Now this last week, he presented himself to the authorities and is now serving a 15 month prison sentence. Zuma's foundation has used the latest violence and protest to call for his freedom saying that, "Peace and stability in South Africa is directly linked to the release of President Zuma with immediate effect." Now, the regional epicenter of these protests are clearly linked to support for Zuma. And there's no doubt in terms of the timing. But the protests are not only about his imprisonment, South Africa's health and economic crisis is deepening alongside the surging COVID pandemic, unemployment for the first three months of 2021 stood at 32.6%. And according to World Bank figures, youth unemployment is the highest of any country in the world. Right. And Carolyn Holmes, a political scientist at Mississippi State University, wrote a great explainer on the events in South Africa for the monkey cage this week. And I want to start with saying she had a 1000 word limit, you know, so whatever is missing from her piece, that is entirely my fault as the person who helped edit it. There was a lot more that she wanted to say. And she does talk about how, just as you said, Rachel, that this is not ... certainly Zuma's arrest sparked what happened, but there was a lot of tinder, you know, ready for that spark. And precisely because of what you've mentioned here, right? It's not just the COVID pandemic, which right now, there's a serious surge happening in South Africa. But that, you know, there's been this long kind of unemployment/underemployment in South Africa, and that, you know, has left a lot of people wondering about, you know, what was promised to them with the end of apartheid and how, even as they may see an end to the political apartheid, they're not seeing an end to the economic apartheid, right. And so, all of that, which, you know, she does talk about, you know, in in her piece, but she focuses in particular, on how to put Zuma's contempt charges in a broader context. So separate from the sentence that Zuma is serving, he faces 16 other charges, including racketeering, fraud and money laundering, related to a $5 billion arms deal that he negotiated when he was vice president in 1989. Government prosecutors first brought these charges in 2008. But they dropped them when Zuma ran for president in 2009. And Zuma has maintained his innocence pleading not guilty and calling the inquiry a witch hunt. And we hear this phrase a lot, right? This witch hunt phrase or that what's happening to Zuma is politically motivated, whether from Zuma or his children or from his many supporters. And as Carolyn writes, this isn't Zuma's first brush with controversy -- a criminal trial, other corruption charges a court finding that he violated the Constitution, a charge of hate speech, all of this predate his current legal troubles. But none of those previous episodes ever resulted in a guilty verdict. And perhaps most illuminating for me was what Carolyn wrote about how some commentators including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, have called the violence ethnic mobilization. Because as as you pointed out, Rachel, these protests are centered in largely, I would say, predominantly majority, Zulu areas of South Africa. But, you know, Carolyn points out that we shouldn't be calling what's happening in South African ethnic mobilization, not least because Zulu nationalist leaders have condemned the violence and Zulu traditional leaders themselves have distanced themselves from Zuma. Now just bringing this back to the corruption charges that Zuma's facing, Carolyn writes about how Zuma's home in Nkandla, which is in KwaZulu Natal province, as you mentioned, this is the site of the earliest protests, and it emerged as a special point of investigation in the corruption inquiries. So Zuma poured millions into upgrading the family's houses, right, we all are familiar with the swimming pool incident. But it wasn't just a swimming pool right? A helipad, underground bunkers. He also enhanced the surrounding area in Nkandla, bringing in electricity, roads, and piped water after he became president in 2009. So I want to encourage our listeners to check out Carolyn's piece and learn more, including her description of what explains this continued support for Zuma, right? It's not that all of these people are protesting Zuma's arrest Zuma. Zuma's arrest sparked these protests. But there's something about his ideology, and she goes into this in greater depth. She also talks about what these current protests mean for South Africa's political and democratic institutions, right? And these protests are really important, not least because they're about real grievances that people have, you know, economic and political. And, these protests are important because of the consequences they have, you know, in terms of what the trial is going to bring, what that's going to mean for justice. But that's also going to mean for democracy Absolutely Kim. And it's relevant when we look at so many cases across the world when we think about, can we hold powerful political leaders past and present accountable for their actions? And through what process? Is that seen as legitimate? And that seems to resonate with those of us who are here in the United States, watching as various court cases are unfolding that involve our former president. Exactly right. Exactly right. And so there's that tension between going after former office holders, but also making sure that they are, indeed accountable on all fronts as the nation's representatives. So as we were just talking about in South Africa, the country's dealing with so many kind of simultaneous fronts with this third wave of Coronavirus infections and with the surge prompting an extension of social restrictions in terms of curfew and other limits on on public behavior and also an increased scrutiny on the state of South Africa's vaccination drive. Now, if you remember, initially, South Africa was hit hard by what was called and what is called the beta variant of COVID. And it sold its AstraZeneca stock in March amid reports of the vaccines low efficacy against that particular strain. South Africa has since ordered 2 million Johnson and Johnson shots but they were delayed due to these blood clotting fears, and eventually, were completely scrapped due to contamination in material sent from a US factory. So currently, only 2.5% of South Africa's population has been vaccinated. And at the same time, it's not just the South Africans themselves because South Africa's pharmaceutical manufacturing capabilities are really core to the entire region, the rest of the continent is looking to South Africa in terms of their ability to produce and distribute more generally.Right. And I want to point out for our listeners who may not know in June, the World Health Organization announced a plan to establish an mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub in South Africa to train manufacturers from low and middle income countries to be able to produce you know, greater quantities of the vaccine because as rich countries hoard doses, right, the rest of the world is going undervaccinated so I believe it's the World Health Organization and its Covax partners are working with the South African Consortium, and that includes BioVac Afrogen biologics and vaccines, and a network of universities as well as the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to establish this tech transfer hub for mRNA vaccines. So, for our listeners who are not familiar with this, I encourage you to check out the Africa CDC website, which has a lot of information about vaccinations as well as kind of real time accounts of what the Coronavirus pandemic is wreaking on the continent right now. So Rachel, let's turn to our expert guests for this week featured from a panel addressing a set of questions around reparation and repair. Now this discussion tells us about models of transitional justice, both in terms of process and outcome and asks, How do we address long term and historical processes of colonial extraction and atrocity with contemporary legacies with deep social and economic consequences? So, as we said at the top of the show, today, we're going to hear from two experts excerpted from this broader panel, right, Liliane Umubyeyi and Amah Edoh on the current unfolding of this question in Belgium and across Democratic Republic of Congo, but also we'll hear some mentions of Rwanda and Burundi as well. Doctors Umubyeyi and Edoh are co-project leads on the Avocats Sans Frontires or, for us Anglophones, lawyers without borders. This project is entitled taking action on a colonial past and its legacies, which you will hear them during the panel referred to by its acronym tackle. Now tackle was established in parallel with the newly established commission in Belgium in charge of examining the Congo Free State, and Belgium's colonial past in DRC, Rwanda and Burundi. As Dr. Umubyeyi explains, this is not an isolated, benevolent move on the part of the Belgian state, but one that was created by a strong protest movement, both domestically and transnationally. Building on global waves of anti racist mobilization. Dr. Edoh also explains their charge to document the work of the commission, its mandate and their involvement in the process. Along with supporting civil society efforts in an advocacy agenda on issues of colonial memory, reconciliation and reparation, to national international institutions and to create a dialogue between civil society actors or what they may refer to as advocates, as well as Belgian and European institutional actors or policymakers on the implementation of public policies relating to the historical and justices of colonization. We're going to have a link to the full video of this panel on our website, ufahamuafrica.com. Have a listen to the excerpt now.

Liliane Umubyeyi:

So, as we all know, the death of George Floyd in May 2020, sparked a global movement against racial injustice, and in Europe, in former European powers like France, Belgium, UK, and Germany, there have been demands from activists to counter the prejudices suffered by racialized populations, but also demands related to colonial pasts. And these demands in Belgium have taken different forms, as there were, of course, different protests against police brutality. There were also actions against statues of Leopold II, the statues were, as you're you have seen in the in the news, they have been covered in red they have they have been tagged. But also as Pedro was saying before, there was this legal action that was that has been launched against against the Belgium state for crimes against humanity, for the removal of four children from their Congolese families. There was this action in June, and later on, the king of Belgium express his regrets for the serious acts committed by Belgium during colonialism. So there have been all these different events. And in July 2020, the Belgian federal parliament decided to set up a special commission that will be in charge of examining the Congo Free State and Belgium's colonial paths in DRC, Rwanda and Burundi. So contrary to what we may think, this wasn't a spontaneous act from the state. In fact, the setup of this commission results from demand that has been expressed by various movements, but also by the Green Party going back to 2016. And the UN Working Group in 2019 expressed in its recommendation the necessity to set up a truth commission. And for the last 15 years in Belgium, there have been different movements and organization that have been denouncing the the legacy of Belgium's colonial pasts, and its current consequences on on people of African descent. Among these organizations we have ... Bamko, Decolonize Belgium, hand in hand against racism. So, there have been many movements that have been involved in this debate, in denouncing this colonial past for many years. These movements have taken different actions. So, for example, there has been a legal action against the against the Royal museum for Central Africa for theft of artifacts, but there were also different actions denouncing the presence of Leopold II in the public space. And there were also different different actions denouncing some part of Belgian traditions that keep stigmatizing black populations, and it's only in July 2020, that the parliament decided to set up this commission. So what is it? What exactly is this commission? This commission is a parliamentary commission. It means that its members are deputies and they represent different political parties, ranging from far left to far right. And although this commission has not been qualified as a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, when we look at its mandate, it is very clear that the transitional justice framework and vocabulary is used. For instance, in terms of truth seeking, the mandate says that the commission is in charge, I quote, "of shedding the light on the Congo Free State in Belgium's colonial past in DRC, Burundi and Rwanda. The commission is also in charge of examining the structural role of the Belgium state and of non private actors, such as religious institutions, the monarchy and the private companies in Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. It is also in charge of examining the economic impact of colonialism on Belgium and on colonized territories." In regard to reconciliation, the mandate of the Commission says that the Commission will have to formulate proposals for reconciliation among Belgians, including those of Congolese Rwandan and Burundian descend, but also optimizing relations between Belgians Congolese Rwandans and Burundians. As far as the reparations are concerned, the text does not explicitly use the word reparations. However, there are multiple elements that lead to think that it's a kind of reparation that is sufficient. So it says that the Commission will have to identify symbolic actions such as the withdrawal of statues, public acknowledgement of facts, and the construction of monuments, which can have a soothing effect. The Commission will also have to examine concrete actions such as the restitution of artifacts, financial support to public initiatives, international cooperation, cooperation in foreign policies, which can have an impact on the behavior of the population in regard to racism and xenophobia. Last but not least, the same text says that the commission is in charge of examining the extent to which victims can be associated to this work and the legal and financial consequences. So even if the term reparations is not used, as such, I think these different elements led us to think that the idea is there. So far, the work of the Commission hasn't started yet. At the moment, there is only a group of 10 experts that are working to prepare a roadmap regarding the activities and the methodology. The report was supposed to be published on the first of December last year 2020. But we're still waiting. For us, we're outside of the Commission and we're very interested by these issues. Setting up such a mechanism represents a historical opportunity, as I think Pablo de Graaff was saying it's quite unique in the history of not only transitional justice, but reparations to historical injustices. And that's why one part of our project, it's to document the process not only what the commission will be doing but what all the all the debates in all the processes that is around this commission because we think it's it's a historical moment that is opening. That being said, the launching of the process has involved many challenges, which raised many tensions and controversies in Belgium. First of all, there was no consultation process before they start the establishment of the commission. It's setting up was abruptly announced in the media and members' names were leaked soon after. And as we know, from other transitional justice experiences, the consultation processes are fundamental to increase the understanding of truth commissions to have input from communities and civil societies that are concerned. Another important challenge of this commission has been the selection of the group of experts, the 10 experts, which are writing the the roadmap. This process hasn't been transparent at all. And some of the figures have been very divisive, and have caused outrage. And this has been particularly the case for the one expert, who's a lawyer and who is with a member of an organization which denies the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda. So at this level, we, in our initiative, we've been urging the commission and advising the different civil society organizations, on the importance of some key principles in transitional justice, regarding the inclusion of communities and organizations affected by the concerned by the process, but also the necessity of for transparency. We are aware of the strong political dynamics that are at play inside and outside of the commission. And we know that this commission runs the risk or the risk of overlooking some fundamental aspect of issues related to the memory of the colonial past related to reconciliation and reparations. We know that there is a risk that it will consume the energy and the resources of various stakeholders, and especially all these civil society organizations who have been pushing for this debate to take place in the last 15 years. And this is the reason why we think there needs to be actors outside of the commission, to put pressure and to make sure that fundamental points are not neglected, are taken into consideration. And it's essentially what we've been doing in in this, this project, but I will let Amah continue, and maybe explain more on the the approach and the dynamics.

Rachel Beatty Riedl:

That was Dr. Liliane Umubyeyi. And now we're going to hear Dr. Amah Edoh talk about their collaboration together, as well as put these efforts in a broader context. You'll also hear in Dr. Edoh's remarks references to other presentations on this panel, which as we've mentioned, you can find a link to the YouTube full panel on our website ufahamuafrica.com. For example, Dr. Edoh will refer to Pablo. And when she does that, she's referring to scholar Pablo De Greiff of New York University, who offers an overview of transitional justice. She'll also refer to Pedro, referring to NYU Abu Dhabi historian Pedro Monaville, who offers a brief but useful history of colonial Congo. Now, I really appreciated Dr. Edohs remarks, especially how she amplifies and even remixes the way we might think about this moment. And, in particular, this movement as something that is transnational and globally important. Have a listen.

Amah Edoh:

What I'd like to do is kind of tell you a little bit more about the nature of the project. But I'll come to it in a roundabout way. Because the way that we've structured this intervention and this collaboration is completely modeled on the reality and the nature of the movement that we are responding to, or that we're trying to contribute to or support or intervene on. I think one of the defining features of what's happening right now around the debate around reparations, for reparations or even just addressing the memory of the colonial and slave trading past of European nations, is the fact that this is a situation that's unfolding across multiple realms. It's almost by definition a trans movement, right? It's trans-topic. It's trans-discipline, it's trans-national in its constitution. And what I mean by that is that, as has been mentioned already, I think it was Pablo de Greiff was that, you know, when we talk about restorative justice around these questions, we're talking not only about economic reparations, but we're also talking about the reimagining of the public space, right with these questions about statues, we're talking about the restoration of artifacts, we're talking about questions of racial justice, from police violence to socio-economic opportunities, we're talking about foreign policy, right? So there's a number of topics that are in that are in the mix right now, right, and a range of disciplinary areas. In addition, a number of the actors be it in Belgium or other European countries or African countries, for that matter, that are involved in these debates, wear multiple hats, right, are activists and also scholars and and refuse to be limited to either frame and in fact, each side of their practice informs the other side, right. And this is a constitutive aspect of how they come into the situation. And then there's kind of the the national bounds of, or transnational kind of mappings of the way this is unfolding. And so Pedro was mentioning the fact that the global stakes of Belgium's colonization of Congo have been under appreciated. Similarly, I think the global stakes of the current moment, right, when we think about the the commission in Belgium right now and what it builds on and what it's potentially opening up, the global stakes of that are also significant. And this is an important part of what informs the approach that we've been taking. And so I guess my main point that I want to come back to is the fact that this this moment is unfolding across fields, right. But it's it's characterized by a decompartmentalization, if you want to think about it that way. And decompartmentalization and compartmentalization, I would argue, are political strategies in this moment that we need to kind of take take seriously and engage seriously. What do I mean by that? For instance, if we think about the range of topics, I already mentioned, the range of topics that come up in restorative justice, right? When we think about the forms of academic expertise that might be relevant to informing the response to these calls for reparations, it expands the fields between what is already as Pablo was mentioning a multidisciplinary field that of transitional justice, to the realms of art history to urban studies to economists, right, to museum scholars, it just expands the range of academic fields that have expertise that are relevant to this. So beyond academia, then there's the need for greater exchanges, right between our brokering of knowledge, let's say between academics, activists, and policymakers, and the commission really creates the situation ... Yeah, has sort of forced this moment where, because as Lilliane was mentioning, in the Belgian case, in particular, you have activists have been involved in these questions around anti racism in Belgium for over 15 years. But now the kind of the transitional justice frame that the Commission hints at or gestures towards, even if it's not formally, it's a mechanism, forces a reframing of the question, right, so that even though these activists have been on the ground have been fighting these battles for 15 years, there needs to be a different way of entering the discourse, a different set of technical tools need to be leveraged in order to be able to engage in this new mechanism that's being made available. And so that's where an organization like Avocats Sans Frontires with its technical sort of expertise in this arena of transitional justice, can play a role in in facilitating exchanges between this new apparatus and activists while bringing in academics from these range of areas who have relevant expertise to support the activists in making their cases. I think what's really interesting to look at is the ways that in thinking about this trans dimension of the movement is looking at its geographical mappings, because I think that is actually a fundamental aspect of this question. And it's sort of forcing us I think to extend our frame, you know, the event today is talking about Belgian Congo, Belgium to Congo. And I think we would push, you know, and kind of expand that frame and say precisely this question of the Belgian Congo is actually, how would I put it, there is a stake in broadening that frame. And just kind of get there if we just retrace the steps of the events that have led us there. Right. So as I mentioned, reminded us, you have the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. And then in the next couple of weeks, you have uprisings throughout the US, right? And not just across the US, across thousands of cities in the US but then in 60 countries around the world. And, in fact, you know, for me, based in the US as I am it was when I saw the repercussions of the ways that what was happening in Minneapolis, or what had happened in Minneapolis, had echoed across the world as I realized that there was something different happening with these particular BLM marches compared to all those that had been happening since 2013. And what you see in the European Vienna marches in particular was that they were you know, participants flew the banners of BLM, in solidarity with what was happening in the US, but always also drawing attention to the situations in specific countries, right. So in France, in particular, for the je suis ... movement, right, in Belgium, also about police violence, and also about the Leopold II statutes. In Bristol, you had the Edward Colston statues. So each time in the European context, it was this moment of asserting and expressing solidarity with the American movement and making a direct connection to realities in these European contexts, which pointed to the colonial and slave pasts, right. And that is no accident, because it's a kind of a recasting of the question that is made all the more ... or sort of the political strategy of it is all the more evident when we look at the state reaction to these efforts. In particular, I'm sure many of you have seen the there was a New York Times article a couple of, I don't know these days, maybe last week, a couple of weeks ago, about kind of the French reaction to a perceived threat coming from the American left. So the threat to French institutions of higher education coming from this discourse about decolonization about race about gender, right. And part of the drive or the impetus, or kind of what that argument builds on is the idea that these concepts, this concept of race, notably, these are concepts that are being imported from without, right that this is not a French problem. This is an American concept that's being brought to bear on French questions. So the casting of the question, as are we dealing here with a global, anti racist movement? That is a product of historical forces that takes specific shapes in different places? Or are we dealing with us, you know, specifically Franco French problem about social inequity? And, you know, questions of religious freedom and secularity? Are we dealing with global racism? Or are we dealing with in the case of the Netherlands, cultural traditions? And you know, if we think about ...? Are we dealing with Dutch traditions and cultural heritage? In the case of Belgium, you know, is this global racism? Or is it about a specific colonial history between Belgium and the Congo, or Belgium and Rwanda and Burundi. And so this is no accident. And to add to the discussion of the French case, the fact that there is a targeting of universities, right, and of specific scholars, in universities, as the conveyors maybe of this pollution coming from, from the US, right, as people who are more activist in their academics, the framing of these individuals in that way is as much a political strategy as the fact that the BLM activists framed their efforts, not just the BLM activists, activists who rose up post-George Floyd's killing in Europe, the fact that they framed their situation in a BLM frame, right. So the way that this issue about how should European countries deal with their colonial and slave pasts, and its consequences in this moment, the extent to which that issue is compartmentalized into a national issue, an activist issue versus an intellectual issue or an academic issue. Those decisions about compartmentalizing and decompartmentalizing are fundamentally political and political to the extent that they are all leveraged towards a particular aim. And so this has come to inform the form that our work has taken in a very organic way. The the tackle initiative came from from Lilliane at ISF coming from, you know, her training in sociology of transitional justice, but the idea was, we need to, you know, follow the action, follow what's happening and bring to bear the technical expertise that ISF has on these questions, but then also create linkages across these different arenas. And so just by following the action, necessarily, you're working across the various fields of academic practice, you're working among academics, activists and policymakers. And you're working across borders, because the issue is playing out across borders. And so we've been building this up at the Belgian scale by virtue of the events, this commission that is in place, and as Lilliane mentioned, the activities there around documenting the process, and then facilitating interactions or exchanges across these different arenas. But then we are building this out from the Belgium case to create connections across other European locations. And the most immediate step in that is this conference that we are organizing, yes, it's happening in three weeks or so, three weeks to a month, that is meant to do exactly that, to highlight the efforts that are happening in France, in the UK, in Belgium, in Germany, around these questions of dealing with the colonial past and with reparations, recognizing that the form that it's taking in every place is specific to you know, the questions and the histories of those countries, that there in many cases are already linkages in place and where there are not there may be an advantage or benefits to be gleaned from creating linkages among them. And so by following kind of the progression of events until now, there's a natural orientation towards going across borders in supporting these efforts. Which if you think about you know, why are we involved in this? You know, it's funny, you know, the Belgian Congo at least, Lilliane is Belgian and, and works in at ISF. I'm Togolese and an American anthropologist based in the US. But this is exactly what this these questions of reparations and dealing with Europe's colonial pasts bring up is the fact that they are as relevant to someone who's a transitional justice focus, as to an anthropologist who is interested about African being in the world and the question of Africa and the world. And both of us by virtue of not just our personal profiles and our educational training, but also institutional groundings, our coming to this with different but complementary sets of interests. And so the goal of this initiative is by no means to stand for the activists who are doing the work on the ground, by no means at all. But rather to kind of create these bridges across these different areas of practice, these different academic disciplines, and these national boundaries in the way that we think our institutional grounding as well as our geographic locations, make possible.

Rachel Beatty Riedl:

That's all for this week. Thanks for listening to this episode of Ufahamu Africa. To find any of the articles, books or links we talked about head to ufahamuafrica.com. Don't forget to follow and share your thoughts with us on Twitter in @UfahamuAfrica. Our podcast is available on Spotify, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, SoundCloud and Stitcher. If you like what you're hearing on Ufahamu Africa, please share this episode and review our show on Apple podcasts. This podcast is produced by Meghan DeMint with help from research and production assistant Julia Felicity Turkmen. We are generously supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and receive research assistance from Cornell University and the University of California Riverside. Our music is courtesy of Kevin McLeod.