Belgian King Philippe has expressed regret for the “acts of violence and cruelty” committed by his ancestor, Leopold II, against the Democratic Republic of Congo during the years ruled the country as though it was his private business.
The letter was published on the 60th anniversary of the African country’s independence and addressed to the President of DRC, Felix Tshisekedi on Tuesday.
The 60-year-old monarch stopped short of issuing a formal apology but conveyed his “deepest regrets.” for the suffering inflicted on Belgian Congo.
“To further strengthen our ties and develop an even more fruitful friendship, we must be able to talk to each other about our long common history in all truth and serenity,” Philippe wrote.
This is coming at a time when there’s a worldwide outcry over the unequal treatment metted on people of colour.
Meanwhile, there’s a petition pressuring Belgium to remove all statues of Leopold II.
In the letter to Tshisekedi, Philippe also stressed the “common achievements” reached by Belgium and its former colony, while also relaying the painful episodes of their unequal relationship.
“At the time of the independent State of the Congo, acts of violence and cruelty were committed that still weigh on our collective memory,” Philippe wrote.
“The colonial period that followed also caused suffering and humiliation.”
“I want to express my deepest regrets for these wounds of the past, the pain of which is today revived by discrimination that is all too present in our societies,” the king wrote, insisting that he is determined to keep “fighting all forms of racism.”
Leopold II’s rule forced many Congolese into slavery while also forcefully extracting the nation’s resources for his personal profit.
His early rule, starting in 1885, was famous for its brutality, which some experts say left as many as 10 million people dead.
Leopold II subsequently handed over the Central African country to Belgium which remained so until the African nation became independent in 1960.