Kinshasa, Jun 8 (EFE).- King Philippe of Belgium said Wednesday that he regretted the colonial past of his country in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but did not apologize for it, on his first official visit to the country.
“On the occasion of my first trip to the Congo, right here, in front of the Congolese people and those who still suffer from it today, I wish to reaffirm my deepest regrets for these wounds of the past,” he said.
“Today, we want to write a new chapter in our relations and look to the future, encouraged by the formidable youth of the Congolese people who ask only to develop their talents.
“Let us write this new chapter together,” he added in a speech delivered before the People’s Palace, headquarters of the DRC Parliament in Kinshasa, at which the Congolese president, Félix Tshisekedi, was present.
Philippe said the past should not be forgotten “but fully assumed” to transmit a thoughtful and pacified memory of the shared history to the new generation.
“This regime was one of an unequal relationship, in itself unjustifiable, marked by paternalism, discriminations and racism. It led to abuse and humiliations,” he added.
Before the king’s speech, the king and Tshisekedi unveiled a Suku ethnic mask at the DRC National Museum in Kinshasa.
It is one of over 80,000 objects looted during colonial rule and that Belgium has returned as a symbol of collaboration to rebuild Congolese cultural heritage.
This is the first time that the Belgian king visits the DRC since King Albert II and Queen Paola visited in 2010 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Congolese independence.
A couple of years ago, King Philipe recognized for the first time the “violence and cruelty” exercised in the Congo under the reign of his predecessor Leopold II (1865-1909), in a letter sent to Tshisekedi.
During Leopold II’s rule, the Congo’s natural resources were exploited and its people were enslaved.
The regime applied a system of terror in which terrible punishments, particularly hands amputation, were common, and mass murders took place. Experts estimate that between five and 10 million people died. EFE