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Belgian king expresses 'deepest regrets' for wounds inflicted in Congo

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By Euronews
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King Philippe greets 100-year-old corporal Albert Kunyuku, the last surviving Congolese veteran of World War II, in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, June 2022.
King Philippe greets 100-year-old corporal Albert Kunyuku, the last surviving Congolese veteran of World War II, in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, June 2022.   -   Copyright  Samy Ntumba Shambuyi/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

On his first visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Belgium's King Philippe returned a looted artefact as an "indefinite loan”.

And he expressed his "deepest regrets for the wounds" inflicted on the country by his ancestors.

The Belgian monarch is visiting the country for a 6-day tour. And during a speech, he said that "Although many Belgians were sincerely committed, deeply loving the Congo and its people, the colonial regime as such was based on exploitation and domination." 

And he added that the colonial regime "was one of an unequal relationship. It was in itself unjustifiable, marked by paternalism, discrimination, and racism. It gave rise to abuses and humiliations".

According to Ronald Kato, senior journalist for Euronews' sister organisation Africanews, officials are trying to use the visit to improve relations with Belgium.

But for many people in the country, the situation is different.

“On the streets and social media there has been a great deal of dissent, with some people calling for the King to apologise,” Kato said.

“And to even pay for the crimes that Belgian committed and for the country’s wealth that the Belgians looted.”

King Philippe’s ancestor, Leopold II, plundered Congo as his fiefdom from 1865 to 1909.

An estimated 10 million Congolese died in the first 23 years of his control. It then passed to the Belgian state until it gained independence in 1960.

King Philippe became the first Belgian official to express regret for this period two years ago.

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