Belgian king reiterates regrets for colonial past in Congo but no apology

Belgian king reiterates regrets for colonial past in Congo but no apology

June 11, 2022 0 By bimola

Nadia Nsayi, a political scientist specialized in Congo, said she sensed “a lot of nervousness in Belgium regarding a formal apology as Congo might use it to demand financial reparations.”

Philippe arrived on Tuesday with his wife, Queen Mathilde, and Prime Minister Alexander De Croo for a week-long visit.

Tshisekedi said during a brief news conference with De Croo that he was focused on boosting cooperation with Belgium to attract investment and improve health care in Congo.

Relations had soured under Tshisekedi’s predecessor, Joseph Kabila, whom Brussels criticized for suppressing dissent and extending his time in power beyond legal limits.

“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,” said Antoine Mubidiki.

Philippe earlier offered a traditional mask of the Suku people to Congo’s national museum as an “indefinite loan.” The mask has been held for decades by Belgium’s Royal Museum for Central Africa.

Belgium has traditionally said little about colonialism, and the subject has not been extensively taught in Belgian schools.

By contrast, Germany last year apologized to Namibia for its role in the slaughter of Herero and Nama tribespeople more than a century ago, officially described it as genocide for the first time and agreed to fund projects worth over a billion euros.

There have been the beginnings of a historical reckoning in Belgium in recent years. During anti-racism protests sparked in 2020 by the police killing in the United States of George Floyd, demonstrators targeted statues of King Leopold II.

Belgium’s parliament established a commission soon after to examine the historical record. It will issue its final report this year.

Belgium will also hand over a tooth, suspected to be the only remains of Congo’s first prime minister Patrice Lumumba, to his family this month.

The Belgian government took partial responsibility in 2002 for the death of Lumumba, who was assassinated by Belgian-backed secessionists in 1961.