July 24, 2014 -- Updated 4:10 pm GMT

Prince Laurent Creates Firestorm Over DRCongo Trip

Posted in: Belgium

Belgium’s Prince Laurent is stirring trouble again, and this is time its over a very sensitive issue. The Prince recently did a trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRCongo), a central African country once colonized by Belgium. Tensions between the two countries have been around for decades, and for Laurent to go DRCongo on his own initiative is creating a major controversy.

Prince Laurent 234x300 Prince Laurent Creates Firestorm Over DRCongo Trip

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Prime Minister Yves Leterme sent a not to Prince Laurent, telling him not to go. When asked to comment, Leterme said “Despite the demands of the federal government and the palace, the prince decided not to adjourn his impending departure.”

It is believed Laurent went to the country to explore its deforestation issue. It is also not known if the DRCongo welcomed him.

But what is clear is that some Belgian politicians are calling for a review of his dotation, or payment from the state, and maybe removing the Prince as an official member of the royal family

“If he wants to be rid of the official side of his life, then we should still look at that. The debate is in any case on the table,” said vice Prime Minister Steven Vanackere, a Christian Democrat, during a morning radio talk show.

Relations between Belgium and DRCongo are very sensitive. During colonization, millions of Congolese died or were mutilated by the Belgians.

Last year, when DRCongo celebrated its 50th year of independence, King Albert II and Queen Paola were present, but only after careful planning and consideration of the DRCongo.

Prince Laurent, the youngest of the King and Queen’s three children, has long been a troublemaker in the family. He stirred controversy recently for sending his daughter to a French school despite linguistic tensions in Belgium, and also lost his driver’s license this year for speeding.

Source: De Morgen

 

Belgian King Invited to DRCongo’s Independence Celebrations

Posted in: Belgium

As a sign of easing tensions between the two countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo formally invited Belgium’s King Albert II to it’s 50 years of independence celebrations this summer. There had been reports that the King of the Belgians would pay a visit to the former colony, but now it is official.

King Albert II 222x300 Belgian King Invited to DRCongos Independence Celebrations

REUTERS/Jan Van de Vel/FILE

“The invitation letter for June 30 was signed by the president and was addressed to the Belgian king,” said Alexis Thambwe Mwamba, who presented the invitation to the monarch on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Yves Leterme has “given its agreement in principle” to the trip, which would be the first royal visit in 25 years.

Relations between the DR Congo and Belgium have been moderate since the central African country’s independence in 1960. Last April, those relations became tense when the then Belgian foreign minister Karel De Gucht made remarks about the DR Congo’s corruption.

In response, the country recalled its ambassador from Brussels and closed its consulate in Antwerp. Belgium, meanwhile, was told to close its consulates.

The Belgian ambassador left the DR Congo altogether in December.

The DR Congo and Belgium agreed to reopen Belgian consulates in the country this past February.

Known as Zaire until 1997, the DR Congo was a personal possession of King Leopold II from 1885 – 1908. Leopold is remembered for his brutality towards the Congolese. A group of mercenaries acting on the King’s behalf murdered millions as well as mutilated and enslaved the people. Leopold’s extreme treatment of the Congolese led the government to compel him to turn his possession over to them.

There have been attempts to put up statues of Leopold in the DR Congo but they never last for long.