Belgium’s King sends ‘regrets’ to Congo for Leopold II atrocities

On the 60th anniversary of the DRC’s independence, King Philippe of Belgium wrote a letter to President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo through which he admitted that “to further strengthen our ties and develop an even more fruitful friendship, we must be able to talk about our long common history in all truth and serenity.”

Belgium's King Leopold II has a 21st century nemesis. He's 14 years old

Philippe is a descendent of Leopold II, who owned what was then known as Congo Free State between 1885 and 1908 and dominated its individuals brutally, exploiting their labor. Historians estimate that beneath Leopold’s misrule, 10 million individuals died.

“Our history is made of common achievements but has also experienced painful episodes. At the time of the independent state of Congo, acts of violence and cruelty were committed, which still weigh on our collective memory,” the King wrote.

“The colonial period which followed also caused suffering and humiliation,” the letter says.

“I would like to express my deepest regrets for these wounds of the past, the pain of which is now revived by the discrimination still too present in our societies,” he added.

A reassessment of Belgium’s colonial legacy has taken place within the wake of the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests. Several statues depicting the chief have been taken down in the country.

After 1908, the territory grew to become a colony of the dominion, often called Belgian Congo from 1908 to 1960, when it grew to become impartial.

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