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The central European nation of Belgium shares its borders with the Netherlands, Germany, France and Luxembourg. While only having a population of 11.5 million citizens, the former colonial power plays an important role in the European Union with its headquarters in the capital Brussels. 

Like many other European countries, Belgium's liberal democracy is facing far-right, anti-immigrant, anti-Islam and anti-African sentiments and political disruption. 

In 2019, the United Nations has told Belgium to apologise for its colonial past turning the Congo into a slave state ruled by Leopold II, for more than a century. The king’s brutal regime killed millions (estimates of deaths in that period range from 10 million to 15 million Africans), ruthlessly plundered the region rich in natural resources. Congolese men were punished by hacking off their children’s hands and feet if they failed to gather the monthly quota of rubber.

However, Generations of Belgian schoolchildren were told of Leopold’s “civilising” mission – a humanitarian king who abolished slavery, built roads and schools and introduced Christianity and democracy to Congo.

A UN working group said that racism suffered by those of African origin in Belgium could be traced back to the country’s failure to address its past.