King Philippe, accompanied by his wife, Queen Mathilde and members of the Belgian government, including its leader Alexander De Croo, arrived Tuesday afternoon in Kinshasa, for an official visit scheduled for six days, at the invitation of the President of the DRC Felix Tshisekedi.

This visit, twice postponed, because of Covid-19 and then the outbreak of war in Ukraine, is the first since that of his father Albert II in 2010, and has a strong symbolic significance.

Two years ago, on June 30, 2020, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the independence of the former Belgian Congo, King Philippe had expressed in a letter to Mr. Tshisekedi his “deepest regrets” for the “wounds” of colonization, a historic first.

He had then regretted the “acts of violence and cruelty” committed at the time when his ancestor Leopold II had made the Congo his personal property (1885-1908), before the half-century of presence of the Belgian State in the country. huge country in Central Africa.

Some Congolese, like the government spokesperson, want to see it as the beginning of a “new partnership”, “uninhibited”, “equal to equal”, while others are still demanding apologies and reparations for the suffering endured and the “looting” of the wealth of the DRC.

The second day of the royal trip will begin with a wreath laying at the veterans’ memorial, an opportunity for the sovereign to award a decoration to the last Congolese veteran of the “Belgian Public Force” who participated in the Second World War.

Corporal Albert Kunyuku, who has just celebrated his 100th birthday, was drafted in 1940 and was part of the military medical support contingent sent to Burma in 1945.

– Return of works of art –

The King will then go to the National Museum of the DRC (MNRDC), a recent establishment financed by South Korean funds, inaugurated in November 2019. Dedicated to the cultural history of the country, it houses masks, utensils, musical instruments, etc

This visit should make it possible to address the question of the return of works of art to the former colony, for which the Belgian government has defined a roadmap in 2021.

After a welcoming ceremony at the Palais de la Nation, official residence of the President of the DRC, the Congolese Head of State and the King of the Belgians will meet on the esplanade of the Palais du Peuple, seat of Parliament.

King Philippe is to deliver the first speech of his trip there.

The second is scheduled for the Lubumbashi (South-East) stage of his journey, on Friday in front of students from the university of the capital of Haut-Katanga, a rich mining region.

The king will finally go to Bukavu (South Kivu), in the east of the country torn apart by nearly three decades of armed violence. He will visit the clinic of gynecologist Denis Mukwege, co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for his action in favor of women victims of rape.

The relationship between Brussels and Kinshasa was difficult during the end of the presidency of Joseph Kabila (2001-2018), criticized for having remained in power beyond his second term, and has warmed up since the accession to the presidency of Mr. Tshisekedi.

On the Belgian side, reflection on the colonial past accelerated in 2020, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement linked to the murder in the United States of African American George Floyd.

After angry demonstrations by African descendants and the unbolting of statues of Leopold II by several municipalities, Parliament set up a special commission to “shed light” on this past.