Belgium's King Philippe expressed his "deepest regret" for violence, cruelty and humiliation during the Belgian colonial rule in the Congo. This emerges from a letter published on Tuesday by Philip to the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Félix Tshisekedi. The occasion is the 60th anniversary of the independence of the African country. Philippe also addressed present-day racism in his country.

"Acts of violence and cruelty were committed in the time of the Free State of Congo, which still weigh on our collective memory today," Philippe wrote to Tshisekedi. The subsequent colonial period "caused suffering and humiliation," it said. the king expressed his "deepest regret for the injuries of the past", the pain of which "is renewed today by the still too present discrimination in our societies". He said he would continue to fight all forms of racism. So that the memory "may be pacified", he supports the reflection process of the Belgian parliament.

In Belgium, against the background of the worldwide racism protests, there was criticism of the role of the former King Leopold II. He was the great-great-uncle of today's king. Leopold II had dominated parts of today's Democratic Republic of the Congo - the so-called Free State of Congo - as private assets from 1885 to 1908 and exploited them mercilessly.

Eight to ten million Congolese are believed to have been killed by historians under his rule - just under half of the population at that time. Subsequently, the area was a Belgian colony until 1960. In an online petition, citizens are now demanding that the statues of Leopold II be removed nationwide.

After the violent death of black American George Floyd in police custody in the United States, demonstrations against racism had also taken place in Belgium in the past few weeks. The protest was also directed against monuments from the colonial era, especially against statues of Leopold II.