Sunday, May 27, 2012

Blasians in the Congo

In the 1970s, the Japanese had operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) to invest in mining projects in the mineral rich region of Katanga.  This area is known for its abundant deposits of copper and cobalt.  According to the US Geological Survey, the Katanga province in the south of Congo contains 4 percent of the world's copper and a third of its cobalt reserves

Over a 10-year period, more than 1,000 Japanese miners worked in Zaire.  The Japanese businessmen had relationships with native Congolese women.  Some of these relationships resulted in children.  Most of the mixed race progeny died soon after birth.  It is said that Japanese taboos led to the children being poisoned in the local mining hospital or sometimes even killed by the fathers themselves.  This practice forced many native Katangan women to hide their half-Japanese children.  To protect their children, they did not give birth in the hospital and raised their children in rural, remote areas.  Thus, many of the surviving children of these Japanese/Congolese relationships do not have birth certificates.  The survivors have formed an association and are now seeking compensation and closure from both the Congolese and Japanese governments.  

Today, the Chinese run the furnaces where minerals are processed.  The Congolese government granted mineral concessions in Katanga province to a consortium of Chinese companies in 2008.  Six billion US dollars was invested in the construction and rehabilitation of roads and the construction of two hospitals and universities.  An additional three billion US dollars was invested in mining operations.  Approximately 90% of Katanga's processing plants are owned by Chinese nationals. 

As another Asian country capitalizes on the wealth and riches of this small African nation, there exists the possibility of mixed race relationships and the potential of another generation of blasians in the Congo.  Hopefully, they will have a happier story to share.

For more about mixed race people in the Congo, check out the FRANCE 24 story on "Katanga's forgotten people".

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