King of Belgium apologizes to DRC for the atrocities of King Leopold II and colonial history

Philippe Léopold Louis Marie, the current Belgian king, has on Tuesday written a letter to the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo expressing his “deepest regret for the atrocious acts committed during the colonial years of King Leopold II and also for all other crimes committed by his country during that era.

The said letter, which was addressed to President Félix Tshisekedi on the 60th anniversary of DR Congo’s independence and communicated through the media, gave due reference to the sad history between the two countries.

“At the time of the independent state of the Congo (from 1885 to 1908 when the ex-king ceded the territory to Belgium, note) acts of violence and cruelty were committed, which still weigh on our collective memory,” King Philippe said.

He further stated that “The colonial period that followed also caused suffering and humiliation. I would like to express my deepest regrets for these wounds of the past, the pain of which is today rekindled by the discrimination still too present in our societies”.

During his rule in Congo, King Leopold II oversaw the murder of at least 10 million Africans after his forces seized the country in the late 19th century, with many others inflicted with grievous injuries. His era was considered by many historians as the most brutal of all. This colonial history infuriated many Black Lives Matter protesters leading to the setting ablaze and later removal of a statue of King Leopold II, which was mounted in Antwerp for about 150years.

Many were divided since the release of this letter. However, the Chairman of the Caribbean Reparations Commission, Sir Hilary Beckles, disclosed in an earlier interview that, mere apologies are not enough for colonialism. A comment he made after apologies rendered by the Bank of England and the Church of England for the various roles their senior figures played in the slave trade. According to him, the people who created the mess have to come and help in practical ways to clean it up.

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