In the wake of the on-going debate surrounding racism and colonial past, after the death of African American George Floyd in late May, Belgium’s King Philippe has expressed his “deepest regrets” for the colonial history that have caused immense harm to the people of DR Congo during Belgian colonial rule in the country.
The statement is witnessed as first of its kind made on the part of Belgium. On June 30, in a letter to Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi to mark the country’s 60th Independence Anniversary, King Philippe wrote, “I want to express my deepest regrets for these wounds of the past whose pain is reawakened today by the discrimination still present in our societies.”
Historians opine that millions of Africans from areas in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo were killed, mutilated or died of disease as they worked on rubber plantations belonging to Belgium’s King Leopold II, who ruled between 1865 and 1909.
King Philippe said, “The colonial period which followed (1908-60) also caused suffering and humiliation.” King Philippe said he would combat all forms of racism prevalent in the collective memory of the country.
In recent weeks, several statues of King Leopold II have been smeared with paint or torn down by protesters in Belgium and a petition has been launched for their removal.