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Dutch king welcomes government's apology for slavery

December 25, 2022

In his Christmas speech, Dutch King Willem-Alexander welcomed the government's apology for the Netherlands' role in 250 years of slavery.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander
Dutch King Willem-Alexander supports government's apology for the Netherlands' role in 250 years of slaveryImage: Peter Dejong/AP/picture alliance

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands on Sunday welcomed Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's apology for slavery earlier in the week, saying it was the "beginning of a long journey."

During his Christmas Day address to the nation, Willem-Alexander said that no one living in the Netherlands today can be held responsible for the inhumanity committed against men, women and children in the Netherlands' former colonies.

"But by viewing our joint history in an honest way and by acknowledging the crime against humanity that slavery was, we are however laying the foundations for a joint future," the king said from the palace of Huis ten Bosch in The Hague.

"The apology offered by the government is the start of a long journey," he added.

Netherlands apologizes for role in slavery

A year of commemoration

Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Monday officially apologized for the Dutch state's involvement in slavery in its former colonies, calling it a "crime against humanity."

The Netherlands plans to confront the country's slavery history. The country declared 2023 as a year of commemoration, featuring several major events and announcing a €200 million ($212 million) fund for social initiatives.

Willem-Alexander said the royal household would participate actively in the plan. The aim was to oppose all forms of discrimination, exploitation and injustice, he said.

Criticism from descendants groups

However, Rutte's move went against the wishes of some slavery commemoration organizations who wanted the apology to be offered on July 1, 2023.

Descendants of Dutch slavery will then celebrate 150 years of freedom from slavery in an annual celebration called "Keti Koti" (Breaking the Chains) in Suriname.

The leaders of Caribbean island Saint Maarten and Suriname in South America regretted the lack of dialogue from the Netherlands over the apology.

The Netherlands is believed to have enslaved an estimated 600,000 people, mostly in South America and the Caribbean, before officially abolishing slavery on July 1, 1863.

dh/jcg (AFP, dpa)