King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium have been visiting the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 07 June 2022. Scheduled to end on 13 June, this visit marks an important turning point in relations between the DRC and Belgium, its former colonial power.
As we know, the Congo, which was once the ‘private property’ of King Leopold II, still bears the traces of the scars of Belgian colonization. It is difficult to forget the severed hands, the disemboweled land and the wealth taken away, the lives taken away and the countless potentialities destroyed in the Congo. How can we ignore the painful assassination of Patrice Emery Lumumba, ‘the inventor of the future’, to repeat Césaire’s words? The list of wrongs is long and it has greatly obscured the relations between the two peoples.
The purpose of this visit by King Philip II is to renew ties and look to the future with confidence. On Wednesday, June 8, in front of the Congolese senators and deputies gathered at the Kinshasa People’s Palace, King Philippe expressed ‘deep regret’.
“On the occasion of my first visit to the Congo, right here before the Congolese people and those who still suffer from it, I wish to reaffirm my deepest regret for these wounds of the past. Sincere regrets that I expressed in my letter to you, Mr. President, two years ago now, for the 60th anniversary of independence,” he said, drawing a bleak picture of colonialism. Perhaps some Congolese were waiting for more. They wanted an apology from King Philip and hoped for reparations. He chose to look to the future to forge a new, fairer and more prosperous partnership.
“Today, you wish to write a new chapter in our relations and look to the future, encouraged by the formidable youth of the Congolese people who are only asking to value their talents. Let’s write this new chapter together”, he said.
These are strong words that set in motion a dynamism between the two countries. Despite the burns of the past, the Democratic Congo today needs development and security. Let us hope that words will give way to concrete actions for the great happiness of the Congolese people!