Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde have arrived in Kinshasa at the beginning of a long-awaited week-long visit at the invitation of Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi.
It will be King Philippe’s first visit to the Democratic Republic Congo since ascending to the throne in 2013.
The trip – postponed by the pandemic – has been hailed by the presidency as an opportunity for reconciliation.
Two years ago the king wrote to President Tshisekedi, expressing his deepest regret for “the wounds of the past”.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who is also part of the delegation, has called it a historic moment and an opportunity to forge closer ties.
The king is also due to discuss the question of returning artworks looted during the colonial era.
That past remains painful.
Millions of Congolese suffered acts of cruelty, particularly during the reign of King Leopold II, who owned the Congo Free State as his personal property.
The Belgian King said he will initiate the return of artefacts looted during the rule of his ancestor – King Leopold II – during which millions died and the country was plundered.
King Philippe, Queen Mathilde and members of the Belgian government are on a week-long visit to the country – his first since becoming king in 2013.