King Philippe of Belgium arrived the shores of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday, alongside key members of his ruling cabinet.

Following a letter he wrote to Congloese President Felix Tshisekedi two years ago, King Philippe will seek to pull strings of reconciliation with the African nation; on behalf of his colonial Belgian ancestors. The monarch had expressed his regrets for ‘wounds of the past’ which the east Africans suffered during the Belgian colonial rule many years ago. This was contained in his letter dated back to 2020.

King Philippe’s visit is also the first he has made to DRC since coming into power in 2013; and will be centered on strengthening diplomatic ties on several fronts between both countries. He is expected to remain within Congolese shores for six days before departing. The Belgian monarch alongside his wife, Queen Mathilde, were welcomed in grandeur at the international airport in Kinshasa on Tuesday.

They highlighted to a rolled red carpet on the tarmac, before being greeted by President Tshisekedi and his wife.

Prior to the Belgian monarch arrival, a spokesman of the Congolese government, Patrick Muyaya, had hinted on a ‘new partnership’ between Democratic Republic of Congo and Belgium. This was during an address to the press on Monday.

‘We are not forgetting the past, we are looking to the future,’ he said.

Meanwhile, Alexander De Croo, the Prime Minister of Belgium—who is part of King Philippe’s entourage—welcomed the opportunity to strengthen ties on a long-term with DRC. He further termed the regularities a ‘historic monent’.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is currently an impoverished nation with a population of 90 million people. The capital city of Kinshasa, holds about 15 million if its citizens. During the period of colonisation, the east Africans were brutalized by Belgian powers in the late 19th century and part of the 20th century. They were also part of the majority of African countries to endure harsh colonialism alongside other nations in Africa. At the time, King Leopold II—who happens to be King Philippe’s great great granduncle—was a major part the conquest of DRC. He exerted himself between 1885 and 1908; just before it was known as a Belgian colony.

Historians pose that millions of Congolese were killed and mutilated, while others had died of diseases which emanated from collection of rubber. Timber and ivory were forcefully extracted for the benefit of the Belgians during that period.

King Philippe now follows after his father King Albert II, who visited DRC twelve years ago. The six-day visit will see the return of a tooth—the last remains of Patrice Lumumba—a hero of the anti-colonial period, who also served a prime minister of independent Congo briefly.

In 1961, a set of Congolese separatists and Belgian mercenaries murdered Patrice Lumumba before dissolving his remains in acid. His tooth was however, preserved by a Belgian police officer as a trophy.

Looted artworks dating back to the colonial era will likely be returned pending a discussion this week. Moreso, a ceremony is scheduled to hold at the Congolese parliament later today in Kinshasa, while King Philippe is scheduled to address students at the southern city of Lubumbashi on Friday. Belgian sovereigns will on Sunday grace the clinic of Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynaecologist who was a co-winner of the Novel Peace Prize in 2018. He was recognised for his role in fighting sexual violence in Bukavu, an eastern city in the DRC.

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