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Mr Klaas de Jonge (The Netherlands)

The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in

Mr Klaas de Jonge (The Netherlands) Awarded for:
His excellent contribution to the fight for the liberation of the people of South Africa. With little regard for his own life, he became part of the armed resistance to apartheid. He demonstrated his commitment to South Africa by continuing to be part of the democratic project after the historic 1994 elections.
Mr Klaas de Jonge was born in the Netherlands in 1937. He is a Dutch civil rights activist who became internationally known as an activist against apartheid in South Africa, when he was forced to spend two years as an asylum seeker at the Dutch Embassy in Pretoria in 1985.

He studied sociology, social anthropology and demography in Amsterdam and Paris (Sorbonne). He specialised later in transitional justice, conflict analysis and community involvement in Africa. He held various academic positions, including as senior researcher at the Africa Study Centre in the Netherlands (1968-1980), and as visiting professor at the University of Brasília / Brazil for African and Race Studies (1989-1994). He has also lectured at the universities of Amsterdam and Maastricht.

From 1981 until 1985, De Jonge was a member of a ‘special operations unit’ of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the armed branch of the African National Congress (ANC), doing reconnaissance work and bringing in arms and explosives into South Africa.

This led to his arrest in 1985 by the South African Police; he managed to escape and acquired asylum in the Dutch embassy in Pretoria until – after two years – he was exchanged for the South African commander of the apartheid regime, Wynand du Toit, in 1987. He continued to do work for MK and the Dutch Anti- Apartheid Movement until the end of 1989.

After his release he worked in Africa in the field of transitional justice for several international non-governmental organisations such as Penal Reform International (PRI) from 1998 to 2005, coordinating PRI’s research into the Gacaca jurisdictions in Rwanda.

From 2009 until 2011, he worked for Impunity Watch (IW) to prepare a project in the Great Lakes region of Africa (Burundi in particular) and develop IW’s collaborative research approach. Since mid-2011, he has been a member of IW’s Advisory Board. He is a member of the African Studies Centre Community of the University of Leiden, a network of international and African experts.

In the late 60s, he already started collecting all kinds of African ethnography. The African masks and statues were to him in line with Picasso and his contemporaries; art which he knew from his childhood with artists as parents.

The main part of De Jonge’s collection comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania, Mozambique and West Africa, and was formed mostly in the 1980s and 1990s when he worked in Rwanda and often visited the neighbouring DRC.

The beauty of art, his passion for aesthetics, gave him a refuge for his often mentally heavy burdening work of questioning suspects of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.