London-based Princess Marie-Esmeralda of Belgium has called for the country’s government to issue an official apology for atrocities committed during their colonisation of the Congo.
Princess Marie-Esmeralda, 63, the youngest child of King Leopold III and aunt of King Philippe of Belgium, made the comments in an interview with Radio Television Belge Francophone (RTBF) as she backs the Black Lives Matter movement.
She called for the government to apologise for the “atrocities” committed in the Congo, now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), especially under the rule of King Leopold II from 1885 to 1908.
Reports state around 10 million Congolese nationals died during the colonisation through murder, torture, starvation and disease.
The princess said: “I think it is very important that we raise the issue of apologies on behalf of Belgium to the Congolese people for the atrocities committed by our country during colonisation.
“The government must decide it. The king can never do it himself. But it would obviously be very strong if the government and the king do it together, given the personal side of the royal family in this debate.”
The princess added that she is behind the tearing down and destruction of statues of colonial figures, disagreeing with those who say they teach us about the past.
Esmeralda, who works as a journalist and documentary maker in London, said she hopes this part of Belgium’s history will begin to be taught from the African viewpoint too.
Belgium has seen statues of Leopold II vandalised in recent days as protesters in the UK and USA have targeted statues of slave owners.
The Congo Free State, which existed from 1885 to 1908, was privately ruled by King Leopold II and the atrocities committed there are associated with labour policies used to collect natural rubber for export.
The country became a colony called the Belgian Congo from 1908 until its independence in 1960, adopting the name the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1964.
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