King Albert II Stays Silent in Congo

  July 1, 2010 at 7:07 am by

On Monday king Albert II and Queen Paola of the Belgians arrived in Kinshasa for a four day visit to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the independance of Congo. It was the first time since 1985 that a Belgian monarch visited the former colony. Immediately after the arrival there was a meeting between the king and president Joseph Kabila. The meeting was supposed to last for 15 minutes, but the king and the president spoke to each other for more than an hour. After the meeting president Kabila spontaniously invited king Albert, queen Paola and prime minister Yves Leterme for a private dinner.

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There is some controversy about the visit of the king. The Belgian government decided that the king will not hold a speech or make any kind of public statements. According to the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs the reason for this is that it is a celebration of the Congolese people and that no other head of state will make a statement. The Belgian and Congolese press however speculates that the real reason for the king’s silence is that the government does not want to do anything to worsen the fragile relationship between Brussels and Kinshasa. They have been even more careful after the murder on human rights activist Floribert Chebeya in June, and after the children of Patrice Lumuba announced last week that they will start a court case against the twelve Belgians who were involved in the murder of the first prime minister of the Congo. Human Rights organization Amnesty International calls the celebrations ‘hypocritical’ because of the bad human rights situation in Congo.

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The festivities to celebrate the independance started on Tuesday evening, with a state banquet hosted by the Congolese President. Apart from King Albert II and Queen Paola, various leaders from other African countries and UN secretary general Ban-Ki-Moon enjoyed a main course of either Flemish stew or another Belgian speciality Waterzooi (a type of fish stew). In his speech, president Kabila took time to extend a special welcome to the King in the name of the Congolese people. “For obvious reasons, the Congolese people are especially touched by the presence of his majesty Albert II, King of the Belgians in Kinshasa.” said mister Kabila. The gala dinner was held in a large marquee at the top of the Ngaliema Mountain that looks out over the Congo River.

Wednesday’s celebrations were supposed to have started at 9:30 am with a military parade attended by the Belgian delegation, the UN Secretary General, diplomats and the leaders of several other African nations. However, the parade still hadn’t stated by 12 in the afternoon! On the social networking site Twitter Belgium’s Prime Minister Yves Leterme expressed his displeasure. “Thousands People have been waiting for three hours in the blistering sun,” Mr Leterme wrote.

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