For the primary time in Belgium’s historical past, a reigning king expressed remorse Tuesday for the violence carried out by the previous colonial energy when it dominated over what’s now the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In a letter to President Felix Tshisekedi, which was revealed on the 60th anniversary of the African nation’s independence, Belgium’s King Philippe conveyed his “deepest regrets” for the “acts of violence and cruelty” and the “struggling and humiliation” inflicted on Congo.
“To additional strengthen our ties and develop an much more fruitful friendship, we should be capable of speak to one another about our lengthy frequent historical past in all fact and serenity,” Philippe wrote.
Philippe’s letter was despatched amid rising calls for that Belgium reassess its colonial previous. In the wake of the protests towards racial inequality triggered by the demise of George Floyd within the United States in May, a number of statues of King Leopold II, who’s blamed for the deaths of thousands and thousands of Africans during Belgium’s colonial rule, have been vandalized. A petition has referred to as for Belgium to take away all statues of the previous king.
A bust of Leopold II is anticipated to be taken down from show later Tuesday within the metropolis of Ghent following a call from native authorities. Earlier this month, regional authorities additionally promised historical past course reforms to raised clarify the true character of colonialism.
“Our historical past is made of frequent achievements, however has additionally recognized painful episodes. At the time of the impartial State of the Congo, acts of violence and cruelty have been dedicated that also weigh on our collective reminiscence,” Philippe wrote, referring to the interval when the nation was privately dominated by Leopold II from 1885 to 1908.
“The colonial interval that adopted additionally induced struggling and humiliation.”
Leopold dominated Congo as a fiefdom, forcing many of its individuals into slavery to extract sources for his private revenue. His early rule, beginning in 1885, was well-known for its brutality, which some consultants say left as many as 10 million individuals useless.
After his possession of Congo resulted in 1908, he handed the central African nation over to the Belgian state, which continued to rule over an space 75 instances its dimension till the African nation turned impartial in 1960.
“I need to specific my most deepest regrets for these wounds of the previous, the ache of which is as we speak revived by discrimination that’s all too current in our societies,” the king wrote, insisting that he’s decided to maintain “preventing all varieties of racism.”
Philippe additionally congratulated Tshisekedi on the 60th anniversary of the nation’s independence, ruing the truth that he was not capable of attend celebrations to which he had been invited as a result of Corona Virus pandemic.