African News

Belgium: Black woman sets herself on fire

20 October 2007 at 01:53 | 5702 views

Maggy Delvaux-Mufu, a mother of three in her forties, alerted several national newspapers late on Tuesday morning last week that she would be burning herself alive on place des Martyrs in Luxembourg City, Belgium, at 12.45 am, before setting out accompanied by her husband to walk through the centre of town to her macabre rendezvous. The police were alerted and officers were deployed to the Rousegärtchen.

But the woman changed her plan when she came across a group of journalists gathered to cover an event organized by the ‘Movement écologique’ on Place d’Armes, opposite the Cercle municipal. She soaked herself in petrol before confronting the members of the press, announcing that she was about to sacrifice her life to protest against racism. Moments later, she struck a match, turning herself into a human torch in front of hundreds of people.

Delvaux-Mufu’s husband and passers-by jumped on the burning body, attempting to stifle the flames with coats and jackets. The scene made several people feel unwell and many witnesses who filled the square at lunchtime were traumatized by the woman’s shrieking screams of unimaginable pain. The flames were already extinguished when police, rescue services and the fire brigade arrived at the scene. One person is reported to have vomited after seeing the woman being transported into an ambulance. The events in Place d’Armes have also started a controversy regarding the authorities’ lack of psychological support for witnesses.

Delvaux-Mufu was taken to the Bon Secours hospital in Metz, where she is being treated in a specialized ward for burns and is fighting for her life. Grand Duchess Maria Teresa visited the woman and her family at the hospital last week.

RTL television was the first to run a news flash about the incident on its website on Tuesday afternoon last week. 352 reported the bulletin in its news in brief section, shortly before going to print. Events preceding the incident only came to light later on in the week.

The 42-year-old Belgian citizen and her husband had been facing financial difficulties. They had recently indebted themselves by buying a Citroën garage in Oberwampach, before realizing they were missing the documents that would allow them to set up a business. Delvaux-Mufu wrote a letter to Le Jeudi recounting her story of bureaucratic difficulties and economic despair. “I’m against all forms of violence, but day after day, my family and I have to endure moral violence, discrimination, insults and much more from Mr Juncker’s administration”, she said in the letter published last week.

Money problems had driven the woman to desperately plead her case at the Prime minister’s office early on the same day of the incident. Her threat to burn herself alive on Place des Martyrs after being turned away by the authorities caused government officials to contact the police. A city-wide search was organized, but nobody could foresee the woman would change her plans."