Belgian king apologises to DR Congo for colonial-era cruelty

King Philippe of Belgium has expressed his “deepest regrets” for acts of violence and brutality inflicted during his country’s rule over Congo, as the Democratic Republic of the Congo marks the 60th anniversary of its independence.

The reigning monarch made the comments in a letter to President Félix Tshisekedi on the 60th anniversary of DR Congo’s independence.

Belgium controlled the central African country from the 19th Century until it won its independence in 1960.

Millions of Africans died during Belgium’s bloody colonial rule.

In a letter to President Felix Tshisekedi, which was published on the 60th anniversary of the African country’s independence, Belgium’s King Philippe conveyed his “deepest regrets” for the “acts of violence and cruelty” and the “suffering and humiliation” inflicted on Congo.

“To further strengthen our ties and develop an even more fruitful friendship, we must be able to talk to each other about our long common history in all truth and serenity,” Philippe wrote.

The 60-year-old monarch also apologised for the suffering and humiliation caused after the end of Leopold II’s administration of the Congo Free State (1885-1908) when the country became Belgian Congo.

Historians estimate that the population of the Congo Free State may have halved to around 10 million people during the years Leopold II presided over the territory as his private property.

The country and its people were exploited for natural resources, including rubber.

There is a renewed focus on the European nation’s history after the death of George Floyd in police custody in the US and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed. Thousands of Belgians have demonstrated in recent weeks and statues of Belgium’s colonial leader King Leopold II have been vandalised. Authorities in Antwerp have removed a statue of him from a public square.

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