On the 60th anniversary of the DRC’s independence, King Philippe of Belgium wrote a letter to President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo through which he admitted that “to further strengthen our ties and develop an even more fruitful friendship, we must be able to talk about our long common history in all truth and serenity.”
“Our history is made of common achievements but has also experienced painful episodes. During the period of the Congo Free State, acts of violence and cruelty were committed, which still weigh on our collective memory,” the King wrote.
“The colonial period which followed also caused suffering and humiliation,” the letter provides, referring to the following 52 years of rule by the Belgian state till Congo’s independence and the formation of the DRC. Leopold had dominated the area personally till 1908.
“I would like to express my deepest regrets for these wounds of the past, the pain of which is now revived by the discrimination still too present in our societies,” he added.
A reassessment of Belgium’s colonial legacy has taken place within the wake of the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests. Several statues depicting the previous chief have been taken down within the nation.
Earlier this month, Belgium’s parliament authorized an inquiry into its colonial historical past.
“I welcome the process of reflection that our parliament has started, so that we may finally make peace with our memories,” the King wrote. But he didn’t take the chance to apologize to the DRC for the acts dedicated by Leopold II or by Belgian governments till 1960.
With no supply of visas, only a few Congolese individuals got here to Belgium till very lately — so whereas the nation turned dwelling to individuals from a variety of European nations, colonial sentiments in the direction of African cultures have by no means been totally shaken off within the nation.
Last 12 months, a bunch of UN human rights consultants visited a number of cities in Belgium and located “clear evidence that racial discrimination is endemic in institutions in Belgium.”
A Leopold II statue in Antwerp was eliminated after Black Lives Matter protests swept across the globe earlier this month, whereas one other reverse Brussels’ Royal Palace has been repeatedly coated in anti-racist graffiti.
Els Van Hoof, a Belgian MP who leads the chamber of consultant’s international affairs committee, says the parliamentary inquiry could sort out the query of what to do with statues of Leopold II, although the precise scope of labor has but to be decided.
CNN’s Scott McLean and Sebastian Shukla contributed to this report.