Belgian king expresses ‘regrets’ for DR Congo colonial abuses

1 July, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Belgian king expresses ‘regrets’ for DR Congo colonial abuses

BRUSSELS: Belgium’s King Philippe has expressed his “deepest regrets” to the Democratic Republic of Congo for his country’s colonial abuses, reports BBC.

The reigning monarch made the comments in a letter to President Félix Tshisekedi on the 60th anniversary of DR Congo’s independence.

Belgium controlled the central African country from the 19th Century until it won its independence in 1960.

Millions of Africans died during Belgium’s bloody colonial rule.

There is a renewed focus on the European nation’s history after the death of George Floyd in police custody in the US and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed.

Thousands of Belgians have demonstrated in recent weeks and statues of Belgium’s colonial leader King Leopold II have been vandalised. Authorities in Antwerp have removed a statue of him from a public square.

More than 10 million Africans are thought to have died during his reign. King Philippe is a descendant of the 19th Century ruler. This is the first time a Belgian monarch has formally expressed remorse for what happened during the country’s colonial rule. The remarks, however, fell short of an outright apology.

In a letter sent to President Tshisekedi and published in Belgian media, King Philippe praises the “privileged partnership” between the two nations now.

But he says there have been “painful episodes” in their history, including during the reign of King Leopold II - who he does not directly name - and in the 20th Century.

“I would like to express my deepest regrets for these injuries of the past, the pain of which is now revived by the discrimination still too present in our societies,” King Philippe wrote.