Belgian king Filip expressed his “deep regret” for Belgian action in the Congo. In a letter to Congolese President Tshisekedi, Filip writes about “wounds from the past”, referring to the reign of King Leopoldo II, among others.
Today, 60 years ago, the African country gained independence from Belgium. “This anniversary is an excellent opportunity to reconfirm our bonds of friendship,” writes the Belgian king. According to him, it is necessary to talk about common history “with all openness and serenity”.
Wounds that are painfully palpable again today by acts of discrimination.
“This story consists of common conquests, but also painful episodes. Violence and atrocities were committed during the Free State of Congo that continue to weigh on our collective memory.” This period ran from 1885 to 1908, when Congo was under the personal rule of King Leopoldo II.
Kingdom of terror
Millions of people died during that reign, according to estimates. After the anti-racism demonstrations after the death of the black American George Floyd, he is in Belgium much discussion how the country should deal with the Congo’s past. Several statues of Leopoldo II have recently been disfigured and removed.
In his letter, King Filip also discusses the period after 1908, when Congo came under Belgian rule. “During the subsequent colonial period, suffering was also inflicted and its humiliations inflicted. I continue to express my deepest regrets for these wounds of the past.”
No official apology
It also makes the connection between contemporary racism and Belgian crimes in Congo. “The wounds that are now painfully felt again by acts of discrimination are still too strong in our society. I will continue to fight against all forms of racism,” said Filip.
According to the Belgian media, the letter arrives unexpectedly. The Belgian press also emphasizes that the king does not offer an official excuse, but speaks of “deep regret”. As a result, his words have less legal weight.