Belgian king claims he ‘regrets’ colonial past in Congo but refuses apology
Belgium's King Philippe claimed on Wednesday he “deeply regrets” the exploitation, racism and violence against the Democratic Republic of Congo during his country's colonization of the Central African nation, but again stopped short of formally apologizing.
"The colonial regime itself was based on exploitation and domination," Philippe told a joint session of parliament in the capital Kinshasa, according to Reuters.
"This regime was one of unequal relations, unjustifiable in itself, marked by paternalism, discrimination and racism," he said.
"It led to violent acts and humiliations. On the occasion of my first trip to Congo, right here, in front of the Congolese people and those who still suffer today, I wish to reaffirm my deepest regrets for those wounds of the past."
Philippe became the first Belgian official two years ago to express regret for colonisation, and some Congolese hoped he would issue a formal apology during his first visit to Congo since taking the throne in 2013.
By some estimates, killings, famine and disease caused the deaths of up to 10 million Congolese during just the first 23 years of Belgium's rule from 1885 to 1960, when King Leopold II ruled the Congo Free State as a personal fiefdom.
Many Congolese were disappointed by the absence of an apology.
“In the face of the crimes committed by Belgium, regrets are not enough," Congolese opposition Senator Francine Muyumba Nkanga wrote on Twitter.
"We expect an apology and a promise of reparations from him. That is the price to definitively turn the page," she said.