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Belgian king expresses 'regret' over DRC colonial rule

June 30, 2020

In a letter to President Tshisekedi to mark the 60th anniversary of Congolese independence, King Philippe has conveyed his sorrow for "acts of violence and cruelty" and the "suffering and humiliation" inflicted on DRC.

Belgien König Philippe Flagge
Belgium's King Philippe FlaggeImage: picture-alliance/dpa/P. van Katwijk

Belgium's King Philippe expressed his "deepest regrets" on Tuesday for his country's colonial rule over what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

It is the first time a reigning Belgian monarch has conveyed regrets for the violence carried out during its colonial past. 

Read moreKing Leopold's legacy: The lingering chaos in DR Congo

"I want to express my deepest regrets for these wounds of the past whose pain is reawakened today by the discrimination still present in our societies," Philippe wrote in a letter to DRC President Felix Tshisekedi, to mark the country's 60th anniversary of independence. Those regrets, he said, related to the "acts of violence and cruelty" and the "suffering and humiliation" inflicted on Belgian Congo.

Philippe was hopeful of a brighter future between the two countries, one free of discrimination.

"To further strengthen our ties and develop an even more fruitful friendship, we must be able to talk to each other about our long common history in all truth and serenity," Philippe said.

Read more:Dark past, brighter future? The Congolese diaspora in Belgium

A reassessment of Belgian colonial rule

The letter from the Belgian king comes in the wake of growing calls for his country to reassess its colonial past. 

Protests against racial inequality across the world have taken place recently, sparked by the death of George Floyd in the United States. As a result, several statues of King Leopold II, who is cited for the killing and maiming of millions of Africans during Belgium's colonial rule, have been vandalized, while a petition called for the country to remove all busts on public display of the former king.

The real history of Leopold II

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Local authorities in the Belgian city of Ghent deemed it necessary to take down a Leopold II statue, and its removal is due to take place later on Tuesday.

Earlier this month, regional authorities also promised reforms regarding how history is taught to better explain the true character of colonialism.

jsi/stb (AP, AFP)