DR Congo: Belgian king Arrives in Kinshasa for First Official Visit

DR Congo: Belgian king Arrives in Kinshasa for First Official Visit (News Central TV)

Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde have arrived in Kinshasa at the beginning of a long-awaited week-long visit at the invitation of Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi.

The monarch arrived on Tuesday and will embark on a six-day trip billed as an opportunity for reconciliation.

Tshisekedi and his wife greeted King Philippe and Queen Mathilde on a red carpet rolled out on the tarmac of Kinshasa’s international airport.

King Philippe of Belgium

Congolese government spokesman Patrick Muyaya told reporters on Monday that Belgium and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) had begun a “new partnership.”

“We are not forgetting the past, we are looking to the future,” he added. 

The colonisation of the Congo by Belgium was one of the harshest imposed by the European powers that ruled most of Africa in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who is accompanying the king on his visit to the country of 90 million people, echoed the sentiment.

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“It’s a historic moment,” he told a Belgian national broadcaster Tuesday, hailing the opportunity to forge future closer ties.

The colonization of the Congo by Belgium was one of the harshest imposed by the European powers that ruled most of Africa in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

King Leopold II, Philippe’s great great grandfather’s brother, oversaw the conquest of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, governing the territory as his personal property between 1885 and 1908 before it became a Belgian colony.

Historians estimate that millions of people were killed, mutilated, or died of disease as a result of his rule. The land was also looted for its mineral resources, timber, and ivory.

The visit is King Philippe’s first to the Democratic Republic of the Congo since ascending to the throne in 2013. In 2010, his father, King Albert II, paid a visit to the country.

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Belgium is preparing to return to Kinshasa a tooth from Patrice Lumumba, a hero of the anti-colonial struggle and the Congo’s short-lived first prime minister.

Lumumba was murdered by Congolese separatists and Belgian mercenaries in 1961, and his body was dissolved in acid, but one of his killers, a Belgian police officer, kept his tooth as a trophy.

The king is also expected to discuss the issue of returning artworks looted during the colonial era, according to Belgium’s royal palace.

Philippe is scheduled to attend a ceremony with Tshisekedi at the Congolese parliament in Kinshasa on Wednesday, followed by a speech to university students in the southern city of Lubumbashi on Friday.

On Sunday, the Belgian sovereign will pay a visit to gynaecologist Denis Mukwege’s clinic in the eastern city of Bukavu, co-winner of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his fight against sexual violence.

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The trip comes at a time when Kinshasa and neighboring Rwanda are at odds over rebel activity in the conflict-torn eastern DRC.

Rwanda has denied supporting the resurgent M23 militia in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


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