This paper provides a critical and historical perspective on the use of the language of ‘development cooperation’ in characterizations of post-colonial relations between the West and Africa. Using the example of the post-colonial debates over cultural and economic restitution between Congo and its former colonizer Belgium, this paper narrates the historical process by which the post-colonial relations between the two countries became defined as ‘development cooperation’, and the implications of that process. The paper shows that since its political independence in 1960 until the late 1980s, the language in which Congo/Zaire described its ‘cooperation’ with its former Belgian colonizer was one that emphasised restitution, while Belgium insisted on a language of ‘development cooperation’ (ontwikkelingssamenwerking). The paper argues that the prevalence of the use of the development cooperation language today not only obscures the historical process behind its ascent; it also masks inequalities that are deeply characteristic of the post-colonial relations between the two countries.
Development cooperation restitution Africa museums