“An important page is being turned,” analyzes Mr. Dermine. “With the restitution of works looted during the colonial period, the remains of Patrice Lumumba or the commission of inquiry in Parliament. There is a form of introspection which shows that Belgium is not afraid to look this colonial past, including with its gray areas which were recognized in the very important speech of King Philippe in Kinshasa. But as the Congolese President underlined, today we must look to the future, build the future through strong trade relations, technical development cooperation and the role that Belgium can play in the extremely tense security context in eastern Congo.”
For the Secretary of State, the question of the possible apology of the sovereign is important, but not preponderant. “What we see here is that these semantic questions weigh relatively little compared to the way in which we build the future of young people in this country, to the imperatives of everyday life”, he comments.
Thomas Dermine, who accompanied the royal couple from Kinshasa to Bukavu via Lubumbashi, noted “the phenomenal attachment of Congo to Belgium”. “We saw demonstrations along the roads, in stadiums, universities… Wherever the King went, he was accompanied by a very large mobilization. This shows that this feeling, which results from our common past, exists again. This should encourage us to maintain this privileged relationship”, he recommends.
The “Congo is and will remain the first beneficiary of Belgian aid”, assures the Secretary of State. However, we must not “be blind” to the progress that must be made in the DRC, in terms of governance, the business climate, legal certainty or the fight against the informal economy. And this, “to offer opportunities for emancipation to Congolese youth”.
In terms of security, the royal couple’s visit to the east of the country, in the current security context, shows that this question is “at the heart of Belgium’s concerns”, he notes.
The main aspect of the visit falling within the competence of Mr. Dermine was the handing over of a mask to the National Museum of Kinshasa. “This is a first step, in terms of restitution, which aimed to demonstrate all the seriousness of Belgium on this issue”, he welcomes.
Thirty, the Secretary of State believes that “the generations play a role” in the warming of the Belgian-Congolese relationship. “The more temporal distance you have from colonization, the more critical you can be in this regard, there is less of an emotional connection. Only a minister in the current government has barely known the era of colonization. on the Congolese side, President Tshisekedi was born after independence. Most of our interlocutors were born in the 70s or 80s, so they have a completely different relationship with Belgium than those who knew the colonial period.”
“The future we embody is more important than the past,” confirms Congolese government spokesman Patrick Muyaya. “Belgium is special for us, it is our uncles who co-created the Congo, the godfather with whom we have reconciled. It is our gateway to international diplomacy, so we must have relations less divisive than those we have had in the past. But the needs of the Congo are enormous, cooperation will not solve all our problems.”
The Congolese minister also notes that “a big step has been taken with the heavy words of the King, the presentation of the mask or even the decoration of Corporal Kunyuku. It is a recognition of our common past, it gives the importance that it’s necessary.”
In a few days, the return of the relics of Lumumba, “it will be the consecration” which will come to conclude a sequence of four months during which “more things have happened than during the previous 10 years”, enthuses M .Muyaya. “With the visit, it heals wounds while opening up new perspectives for the future.”