Philippe, King of Belgium, expressed regret for the violence during the kingdom’s colonial rule in Brazzaville. As reigning monarch noted with sadness, many acts of violence were carried out by the former colonial power when it ruled over what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, ABC News reported.
In his letter to the president of DR Congo, published on the 60th anniversary of the former Belgian colony’s independence, Belgium’s monarch conveyed his “deepest regrets” for the cruelty inflicted on Congo.
According to King Philippe, citizens of the former colony didn’t deserve those “acts of violence” and the “suffering and humiliation” inflicted on the African nation.
“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,” Belgian ruler’s letter reads.
Philippe’s letter acknowledges that the colonial period that followed also caused suffering and humiliation. Now, the kingdom reassesses its colonial past, especially after recent tragedy with George Floyd.
Many Belgians are protesting on the streets, demand to remove several statues of King Leopold II, who is blamed for the deaths of millions of Africans during Belgium’s colonial rule. The late king’s statues have been vandalized, while a petition called for the country to remove all statues of the former ruler.
Belgium takes down statues of King Leopold due to his cruel colonial past
A bust of Leopold II is expected to be taken down from display later Tuesday in the city of Ghent following a decision from local authorities. Earlier this month, regional authorities also promised history course reforms to better explain the true character of colonialism.
In fact, Leopold ruled Brazzaville as a fiefdom, forcing many of its people into slavery to extract resources for his personal profit. His early rule was famous for its brutality, which some experts say left as many as 10 million dead.
“Our history is made of common achievements, but has also known painful episodes. 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, referring to the period from 1885 to 1908.
After Leopold’s ownership of Congo ended in 1908, he handed the central African country over to the Belgian state, which continued to rule over an area 75 times its size until the nation became independent in 1960.