Belgian king reiterates regrets for colonial past in Congo but does not apologise -Breaking
© Reuters. Belgium’s King Philippe reacts to the unveiling of the traditional mask as a gesture of restitution by President Felix Tshiseked of Democratic Republic of Congo, during their visit to Kinshasa national museum (Democratic Republic of Congo, June 8, 2022 R).
By Benoit Nyemba
KINSHASA (Reuters). Despite expressing his regret on Wednesday over the exploitation of his country and the acts of racism that led to the colonisation of Democratic Republic of Congo by Belgium, King Philippe did not make any formal apology.
Philippe, the first Belgian official, was among the first to apologize for colonization.
“Even though many Belgians were invested themselves honestly, loving Congo and its people very deeply, the colonial system itself was based upon exploitation and dominance,” he said to a session of parliament held in Kinshasa.
He stated that the regime was one of unjustified relations and marked by racism, paternalism and discrimination.
It resulted in violent acts of humiliation. “I regret deeply the wounds that were caused by the war in Congo. This is my first visit to Congo.
Many politicians and President Felix Tshisekedi of Congo have welcomed Philippe to their country. Many supporters of the ruling party waving Belgian flags. A banner hanging from parliament said: “A common story.”
However, many Congolese would be disappointed to hear that an apology was not forthcoming.
According to some estimates, 10 million Congolese died from famine and other diseases in the first 23 year of Belgium’s control, between 1885 and 1960. This was when King Leopold II made the Congo Free State his personal fiefdom.
Villages who missed the rubber collection quotas were known to have severed their hands.
They left us alone, and abandoned. You invite the Belgian monarch again today, after they pillage all our resources. Junior Bombi was a Kinshasa central market salesman.
Antoine Roger Lokongo (a professor at University of Joseph Kasa–Vubu in southwestern Congo) said prior to the speech that he would wait until Philippe formally apologized.
Lokongo stated that “the simple regret you have expressed, is not enough.”
Philippe, his wife Queen Mathilde and Alexander De Croo, arrived Tuesday for a one-week visit.
Tshisekedi stated during an earlier news conference on Wednesday that he is focusing on strengthening cooperation with Belgium in order to increase investment and improve the health care system in Congo.
Tshisekedi’s predecessor Joseph Kabila had caused tensions. Brussels criticized Kabila for encouraging dissent and expending his powers beyond what was legally allowed.
Tshisekedi stated, “We haven’t dwelled upon the past which is the present and is not to been reconsidered but we must look forward to the future.”
Kinshasa residents expressed hope that the visitors would attract investment and bring attention to the conflicts in the east.
“My belief is that Congolese-Belgium should have good relations once again,” said Antoine Mubidiki. “Despite the things that we suffered from during colonisation by Belgians, we can forgive.
Philippe offered to loan a Suku mask from the Congo to its national museum for an “indefinite” loan. Belgia’s Royal Museum for Central Africa has held the mask for many decades.
He said, “I’m here to bring back this extraordinary work to enable Congolese discover it and enjoy it.”
Belgian history has been very sparse on colonialism. This is why the topic has never been widely taught in Belgian schools.
Recent years have seen the start of an historical reckoning. Anti-racism demonstrations were sparked by the killing of George Floyd in 2020. Demonstrators targeted King Leopold II statues.
Soon after, the Belgian parliament created a commission in order to review historical records. The final report will be published by the commission this year.
Belgium will also give a tooth to Patrice Lumumba’s family, which is believed to be his only remaining remains as Congo’s prime minister. In 2002, the Belgian government accepted partial responsibility for Lumumba’s 1961 death.