Princess Calls on Belgium to ‘Apologise’ for Colonial Past in D.R. Congo

Princess Esmeralda of Belgium is renewing a call for her country to apologize for its colonial past.

Historians estimate that more than 10 million Congolese people were killed during Belgian King Leopold II’s colonial reign during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“Belgium must apologize. As in a couple, apologies are important to restart a balanced relationship,” she added.

The statue of King Leopold II drenched in red paint and covered with a hat by activists in Brussels. The morality of honouring such a figure with so much African blood on his legacy is being questioned/Photo: Screenshot/ZDF

Princess Esmeralda first called on her country to apologize in 2020. Her latest push comes as King Philippe of Belgium is slated to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) next month.

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In June 2020, on the 60th anniversary of the country’s independence, King Philippe wrote a letter to the DRC’s president, Félix Tshisekedi, expressing “deepest regrets” for the violence inflicted during the Belgian colonization.

“During the time of the Congo Free State [1885-1908], acts of violence and brutality were committed that weigh still on our collective memory,” the king allegedly wrote.

“The colonial period that followed also caused suffering and humiliations. I would like to express my deepest regrets for the wounds of the past, the pain of today, which is rekindled by the discrimination all too present in our society,” he added.

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King Philippe’s visit to the DRC will take place between March 6 and March 10, and marks the first Belgian royal visit to the country since 2010.

The visit comes as Belgians have started planning for the return of cultural objects that belong to the DRC and were wrongly acquired by the Belgian government.

In her interview this week, Princess Esmeralda said she attracted a lot of criticism when she first called on her country to apologize.

“I was not attacking my current family. We are not responsible for our ancestors,” she said. But “we have a responsibility to talk about it,” she added.

In 2020, “Black Lives Matter” protesters demonstrated in Brussels, and more than 63,000 people signed a petition demanding that officials remove statues of King Leopold II.

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“Black lives matter. Congolese lives matter. Every human life matters,” the civil rights group LUCHA stated at the time. “Belgium should be ashamed it continues to present Leopold as a ‘civilizing’ hero through history courses, statues, effigies, stamps, avenues and streets in his honor.”

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