It took over 100 years for a Belgian King to finally ‘express his deepest regrets‘ for Belgium’s colonial past in Congo. As we recall, King Leopold II of Belgium perpetrated a genocide in Congo. Leopold II took Congo, a country at least 10 times the size of Belgium, as his private property and killed millions of Congolese. It is said that he must have executed and maimed over 15 million people!
So now, Belgian King Philippe wrote a letter to the president of Congo Felix Tshisekedi, on 30 June 2020, the anniversary of the Independence of the Democratic Republic of Congo, stating: “During the time of the Congo Free State [1885-1908], acts of violence and brutality were committed that weigh still on our collective memory. The colonial period that followed also caused suffering and humiliations. I would like to express my deepest regrets for the wounds of the past, the pain of today, which is rekindled by the discrimination all too present in our society.” His remarks fell short of an apology! Should we applaud for this?
I say NO! To the Belgian King, I say you can eat your “deepest regrets”! Many are calling this progress, but I call this arrogance to wake up one day, and finally say, “I regret the past. Yes…, my grandfather committed acts of violence and brutality, killed your fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters, … maimed your forefathers, decapitated so many of you … instilled fear into your psyche… destroyed your livelihood, your culture, and the entire foundation of your society.”
And so what? That’s it? Should we clap for you? where is the apology? Didn’t you think we knew that already? Where is the reparation? Don’t you know that Belgium is nothing without Congo? Coincidentally, King Philippe forgot to include the period following that time, from 1908 to the independence of Congo, and then to nowadays with the treacherous role played by Belgium in the assassination of the Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, and countless others, and the unrest in the region to this day.
And to stand up there, and say I “express my deepest regrets for the wounds of the past”… it’s like Hitler waking up today, and telling Holocaust survivors and their descendants, “I killed you, jailed your parents, forced you into exile, brought fear into your souls, and decimated every part of you… I regret it. What can you about it? ” It is simply arrogant! … It is just too easy. Until there is a clear “I am sorry”, until there is a clear “here is what we will do to right the wrongs,” until there is a clear “correction and inclusion in the history textbooks, opening of all classified documents”…. until there is a clear “respect for those killed, and for those living today” until then, there will be no respect for arrogant kings who claim to have been awaken by George Floyd’s killing in the USA and not the atrocities they themselves committed in Congo!
We, the people of Congo, cannot forget… we cannot forget that the unrest in Congo today is a direct result of the atrocities committed by Belgium in the region. We cannot forget the souls of our ancestors who still cry to us for justice today.