Belgium's colonial crimes: King expresses regret

In a letter to the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi, King Philippe of Belgium for the first time expressed his regret for the violence and cruelty his country inflicted on the region during the colonial period and the discrimination that continues to this day. The letter was sent on the 60th anniversary of the DRC's independence. Europe's press approves of the step but stresses that much more must be done.

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Le Soir (BE) /

Philippe has found the right words

The letter will make an impact, Le Soir puts in:

“Three elements give this letter particular force. First of all, the king has become the first to take responsibility for 'his' ruling family: as a descendant and heir to Leopold II, he is taking the lead. Second, he did not wait to be forced to do so by the Truth & Reconciliation Commission [which was launched in June]: he acknowledges the facts without the need for a parade of experts to convince or compel him to do so. Third, in his letter to President Tshisekedi he concludes from his regret that he must address the other legacy of this colonial past: the discrimination and racism that continue into the present. An opportunity to reaffirm his country's current values and his will to serve them. Because that's exactly what is most urgent now.”

De Standaard (BE) /

"Sorry" won't help people make ends meet

Now that the letter has been sent the next steps must follow, De Standaard demands:

“As historic as King Philippe's letter of regret is, it won't put food on Congolese tables and it doesn't give Belgium any additional diplomatic clout. A kleptocracy listens to the highest bidder, and right now that's the Chinese. ... Investing in human capital also means opening your arms to the children of the Congolese diaspora in Belgium. It remains unfortunate that despite benefiting from higher education they are discriminated against more than other minorities. If this country really cares about Congo, it must also take care of Congolese Belgians.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Caught up in the vortex of the past

Belgium is missing out on a chance to establish good relations with its former colony, writes Die Presse:

“The Democratic Republic of the Congo became independent 60 years ago, bringing to an end almost eight decades of Brussels's colonial rule. ... [Belgium] has failed to build a relationship with Kinshasa that is both beneficial and decent. The Chinese and the Americans are the ones making the big deals in the Congo. As a result, the long overdue examination of their past is preventing the Belgians from considering how they could create a mutually beneficial future with the Congolese.”