Belgium–Democratic Republic of the Congo relations

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Belgium – Congo DR relations
Map indicating locations of Belgium and Congo DR

Belgium

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Belgium–Congo relations refers to relations between the Kingdom of Belgium and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The relationship started with the exploration of the Congo river by Henry Morton Stanley.

Belgium has an embassy in Kinshasa, a consulate-general in Lubumbashi, and two honorary consulates; in Matadi and Goma. The DRC has an embassy in Brussels and a consulate-general in Antwerp. The current Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium in Kinshasa is Bertrand de Crombrugghe de Picquendaele, while the Chargé d'affaires of the DRC in Brussels is Paul Crispin Kakhozi Bin Bulongo.[1]

History[edit]

Following Stanley's expedition to the Congo, King Leopold II initially ruled Congo as his personal property following the Berlin Conference.[2][3] On 18 October 1908, the Belgian parliament voted to annex Congo;[4] on 15 November 1908, Leopold formally relinquished personal control over the state to Belgium, forming the Congo Free State. During the Free State period, Congo was reputed to have been brutalised by a harsh economic policy that entailed rubber production quotas to be met by forced labour.[3] Other crops were also farmed in the Congo.[5]

Political ties[edit]

After fifty years of Congo's independence, a visit by the Belgian King Albert II was met with controversy as the king's brother, Baudouin, was said to have been connected to the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, and Lumumba's family sought to bring a case against 12 Belgians claiming Lumumba's torture and murder constituted war crimes.[6]

Amidst other controversies, Congo's Minister of Communication, Lambert Mende Omalanga, described an "unacceptable attitude of the Belgian political class to consider the Congolese problems as internal affairs of their country," following such allegations as the "very bizarre case of a purely imaginary invitation of Belgian soldiers to participate in the military parade in Kinshasa," amongst others. He then said "coloniser to colonised relations is over." The Belgian Minister for Development Cooperation, Charles Michel, then expressed surprise at the remarks and demanded respect for Belgium.[7]

During a visit by a Belgian cabinet delegation in 2008 to the Congo, President Joseph Kabila said he did not appreciate a message brought by the team in regards to human rights issues. Kabila said: "Belgium must make a choice on the type of relationship it wants to have with the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has a choice between having good relations as partners in a mature relationship with a sovereign and independent state or a master-slave relationship. I will note that every time a Belgian delegation is led by the minister of foreign affairs; it is with a lot of arrogance, as if our visitors are coming here to lecture us. This is unacceptable. The Congo will never accept this, definitely not me."[8]

In December 2016, when President Kabila announced the postponement of elections and that he will not be stepping down despite the end of his constitutional mandate, the Belgian government announced it will "re-examine" its relations with the DRC.[9] The Belgian government also advised its citizens to not visit the DRC due to the political unrest.[10] In April 2017 it was announced that the Congolese government informed the Belgian military attaché in Kinshasa that DR Congo will suspend military cooperation with Belgium, after foreign minister Didier Reynders criticized President Kabila's choice of the new Prime Minister, Bruno Tshibala.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1]. Website of the Embassy of the DRC in Brussels. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  2. ^ Hochschild.
  3. ^ a b Stengers, Jean, "Le rôle de la commission d'enquête de 1904-1905 au Congo", In Congo: Mythes et réalités, Bruxelles: Editions Racine, 2005, pp. 159-179.
  4. ^ Senelle, R. and E. Clément (2009), Léopold II et la Charte Coloniale, Brussels: Editions Mols.
  5. ^ Boahen, A. Adu (1990). Africa Under Colonial Domination, 1880–1935. p. 171.
  6. ^ Charges sought in Lumumba death 50 years after DRC independence | Radio Netherlands Worldwide
  7. ^ Congo/Belgium: The coloniser to colonised relationship is over
  8. ^ Tense relations between the DRC and Belgium | Congo Planet
  9. ^ Williams, Richard (20 December 2016). Belgium says it will 're-examine' relations with Democratic Republic of Congo after Kabila fails to step down. The Independent. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  10. ^ Belgium urges citizens out of Congo on fears of violence. Reuters. Published 16 December 2016. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  11. ^ DRC suspends military cooperation with Belgium. News24. Published 15 April 2017. Retrieved 15 September 2017.