DR Congo’s retrospective on 60 years of independence: “We failed”
Congo marks 60 years of independence and freedom from the harsh Belgian colonial rulers. On this date, some have been wondering how little progress the country has made and how even after independence there has been little development and the country is stuck in a “vicious cycle of instability and poverty”.
Some leaders gave their opinion on what happened to the country since.
“After 60 years of independence, the assessment is without doubt: we have shamefully failed. We have not been able to make Congo a more beautiful country than it was before,” said Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, the archbishop of Kinshasa, in a country where the powerful Catholic Church has been deeply critical of the government.
Belgium’s King Philippe took a meaningful initiative this week by expressing his “deep regrets” for the abuses suffered under his country’s yoke until the Democratic Republic of Congo broke away on June 30, 1960
Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi on Monday paid tribute to Philippe, “who, like me, seeks to reinforce ties between our two countries without denying our shared past”. Tshisekedi praises Philippe for being conciliatory and for attempting to soothe tensions regarding Belgium returning Congolese artifacts such as masks and statues that were looted during colonisation.
The colonial powers were not the only ones responsible for the ruin of Congo.
“Over 60 years, we have gradually allowed our political class to turn into a sort of mafia” Tshisekedi said on a speech on Monday. “The average Congolese has lost 60 percent of their wealth in the last 60 years,” he added.
He also denounced a “political class which is struggling to tear this nation out of a vicious cycle of instability and poverty.”
Looking to repair the historical imbalance, the Belgian city of Charleroi on Thursday named a street after Congolese independence icon Patrice Lumumba.
Belgium’s colonisation was considered brutal even by the 19th-century standards, millions of Africans from areas in what is now DRC were killed, mutilated or died of disease as they worked on rubber plantations belonging to Leopold, king from 1865-1909.
The scars remain, with two-thirds of the population living below the poverty line.
Some leaders have suggested that Belgium repairs the colonial damage through investment.
“People should be willing to repair the damage in terms of investment and compensation with interest. That’s what we expect from our Belgian partners,” said Lambert Mende, the spokesman of Tshisekedi’s predecessor, ex-president Joseph Kabila.
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