King Willem-Alexander is widely expected to issue a formal apology on behalf of the Netherlands for its involvement in slavery.
The apology is anticipated to take place on Saturday during an event commemorating 150 years since the liberation of slaves in former Dutch colonies.
A report states that “Thousands of descendants of slaves from Suriname in South America and the Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao will be present at the celebrations in Amsterdam, known as ‘Keti Koti’ (which means ‘breaking the chains’ in Surinamese).”
According to Dutch media reports, the king is likely to offer an apology on behalf of the royal family, following the government’s official apology in December.
However, Willem-Alexander has not explicitly confirmed whether he will express remorse for the lucrative trade that brought immense wealth to his ancestors from the House of Orange, as researchers have revealed.
During a recent state visit to Belgium, when asked about apologizing at the ceremony, the Dutch monarch told journalists, “I think we will have to wait until July 1. I clearly understand peoples’ wishes that I’ll do it, but I’m asking you to wait until then.”
The king’s speech will be broadcast live on national television, and Queen Maxima and Prime Minister Mark Rutte will also be in attendance at the event in the Oosterpark in Amsterdam.
Descendants of slaves have been calling on the king to use this occasion to apologize, as it holds significant importance for the Afro-Dutch community and the process of coming to terms with the history of slavery, as stated by Linda Nooitmeer, chairman of the National Institute of Dutch Slavery History and Legacy.
The Netherlands has engaged in a challenging debate about its colonial and slave trading past since the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States. The Dutch royals have often found themselves at the center of this discussion.
In June, a Dutch study revealed that the royal family accumulated the equivalent of 545 million euros ($595 million) between 1675 and 1770 from the colonies, where slavery was widespread.
The report highlighted the “deliberate, structural, and long-term involvement” of the Dutch state in slavery, with the current king’s distant ancestors, Willem III, Willem IV, and Willem V, being among the primary beneficiaries.
In 2022, King Willem-Alexander announced that he would no longer use the royal Golden Coach, which traditionally transported him on state occasions, due to the depictions of slavery on its sides. One of the side panels depicted a scene titled “Tribute of the Colonies,” featuring kneeling black individuals offering produce like cocoa and sugarcane to their white masters.
In December, Prime Minister Mark Rutte described slavery as a “crime against humanity” when delivering a long-awaited apology, and Dutch ministers visited seven former colonies. Shortly after, in his Christmas address, the king stated that the government’s apology marked the “beginning of a long journey.”
Although slavery was officially abolished in Suriname and other Dutch-held territories on July 1, 1863, the practice persisted until 1873 after a transitional period of ten years.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Dutch financed their “Golden Age” of empire and culture through the transatlantic slave trade, transporting approximately 600,000 Africans predominantly to South America and the Caribbean.
Source: Agence France-Presse