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No apology for Belgium’s colonial past, ‘King not cooperating’

Dieter Telemans


No agreement was reached in Belgium on apologies for the Belgian colonial past to the African countries Congo, Burundi and Rwanda. The royal palace and two political parties think parliament’s apology goes too far, he said VRT News.

Last month, the chairman of the Congo committee of the House of Representatives released a report with 128 recommendations. The committee was due to vote on it today, but the differences of opinion proved too great.

Two party chairmen withdrew their support for the deal at the last minute. According to committee chairman De Vriendt (of the Groen party), this came after the royal palace contacted the politicians. “I have heard that great sensitivity has also been reported from the royal palace about the apology,” De Vriendt told the newspaper. VRT extension. He finds it extraordinary, because the king has already expressed regret in Kinshasa.


According to the VRT, the royal palace contacted the politicians on two occasions about the possible apology. For example, Prime Minister De Croo is said to have been told the King is “concerned” about the committee’s activities and that there should be no apology.

Even a member of the commission of a government party would have received a phone call with an invitation to “caution”. Constitutionally, the king has the right to do this behind the scenes, a constitution expert told VRT, but politicians are free to do with it as they please.

Two years ago, the parliament’s special committee began investigating how to apologize to Congo, Burundi and Rwanda. With the aim of “creating clarity, drawing lessons for the future and making recommendations for reconciliation and restoration,” said De Vriendt.

Which now seems to have failed. The committee’s mandate expires at the end of this year, so there’s a small chance the parties will reach an agreement anyway.

Torture and executions

At the end of the 19th century, Leopold II, predecessor of the current King Philip, regarded the “Congo Free State” as a personal province. In the extraction of valuables such as ivory and rubber, the population was forced to work as hard as possible, through torture, executions and other terrorist measures.

Only after the international uproar over this did the Belgian government take power in the country in 1908. This improved the situation for many Congolese, but the colonial rule remained.

Two years ago Philip wrote an open letter to the Congolese President Tshisekedi, to express his regret for all the abuses suffered during the Belgian regime. Again this spring, Filip used the word regret. Congo became independent in 1960, followed by Rwanda and Burundi in 1962.

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