Belgium’s King Expresses Regret Over Colonial Abuse
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
KINSHASA (Worthy News) – Belgium’s King Philippe has expressed his “deepest regrets” for his nation’s abuses and pain in its former colony Congo.
Speaking to the central African nation’s lawmakers, he said Belgium’s rule over the vast central African country had inflicted pain and humiliation through a mixture of “paternalism, discrimination, and racism.”
Although many Belgians were “sincerely committed to loving the Congo and its people deeply,” the colonial regime, as such, was based on exploitation and domination,” the king said.
“This regime was that of an unequal relationship, in itself unjustifiable, marked by paternalism, discrimination, and racism,” he added
He spoke two years after the country celebrated its 60th anniversary of independence.
“On the occasion of my first trip to the Congo, right here in front of the Congolese people … I wish to reaffirm my deepest regrets for these past wounds,” Philippe said.
REGRETS KEY THEME
Regrets over Belgium’s past are a central theme of his six-day visit to the country. His speech comes two years after the king made similar comments on the 60th anniversary of Congo’s independence.
He went further than his predecessors in condemning “acts of violence and cruelty” during Belgian colonial rule.
While some Congolese praised the Belgian king’s remarks as brave, others said the “apology” must come with financial reparations.
But his carefully chosen wording suggested that expensive reparations were not on the table yet. A senior U.S. security official speaking to Worthy News questioned the timing of the king’s visit. “With a war going on in Ukraine, his comments seemed almost aimed at remaining underreported,” he said.
The official spoke on anonymity as he wasn’t authorized to speak with reporters, but he has intimate knowledge about the White House’s thinking.
Despite the controversy surrounding his visit, Congo President Felix Tshisekedi and politicians have enthusiastically welcomed Philippe’s visit. Many ruling party supporters waved Belgian flags, and a banner hanging from parliament read: “A common history.”
But others were disappointed by the absence of an apology. By some estimates, killings, famine, and disease caused the deaths of up to 10 million Congolese during just the first 23 years of Belgium’s rule from 1885 to 1960.
Belgium’s King Leopold II ruled the Congo Free State as a personal fiefdom, historians say.
Despite efforts to overcome Belgium’s bloodstained colonial past, relations between the two nations suffered under Tshisekedi’s predecessor, Joseph Kabila.
Brussels criticized him for suppressing dissent and extending his time in power beyond legal limits. Yet, “We have not dwelled on the past, which is the past and which is not to be reconsidered, but we need to look to the future,” Tshisekedi said.
Some Kinshasa residents also said they hoped the visit would bring investments. “Despite what the Belgians did to us during colonization, we are ready to forgive,” Antoine Mubidiki told reporters.
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