By John Ikani
Belgium’s King Philippe, who is on his first visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo, has reiterated his “profound regrets” for his country’s colonial past.
He made the remarks during a speech on the first full day of his historic visit to Belgian’s former colony.
DR Congo’s President Félix Tshisekedi, who came to power in 2019, had extended the invite to the royal couple several years ago.
In front of the People’s Palace in the capital, Kinshasa, the 62-year-old monarch said the colonial regime was based on exploitation and domination.
“This regime was that of an unequal relationship, in itself unjustifiable, marked by paternalism, discrimination and racism,” he said.
“On the occasion of my first trip to Congo, 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.
“Sincere regrets that I expressed in the letter that I sent to you, Mr President, two years ago now, for the 60th anniversary of independence.”
Belgium controlled the central African country from the 19th Century until it won its independence in 1960.
Millions of people died during Belgium’s bloody colonial rule.
King Philippe called for the two countries to write a “new chapter together” – without forgetting the past.
Earlier in the day, he and President Tshisekedi unveiled a famous mask at Kinshasa’s National Museum of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is one of more than 80,000 artefacts that were looted during colonial rule that are being returned by Belgium.
The king ended the speech with the words: “Long live the Congo, long live the Belgian-Congolese friendship!”