Belgian king awards last Congolese World War II veteran – 08/06/2022

Kinshasa, June 8, 2022 (AFP) – King Philippe of Belgium decorated the last living Congolese World War II veteran on Wednesday during a historic visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Belgian sovereign arrived this Tuesday (8) in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, for a six-day visit heralded as an opportunity for reconciliation between the Central African country and its former colonial power.

After visiting a monument to veterans on Wednesday, Philippe of Belgium decorated 100-year-old Corporal Albert Kunyuku, who enlisted in the Belgian colonial force in 1940 and served in Myanmar.

Kunyuku, the last surviving Congolese veteran of World War II, and the king shook hands for long seconds.

The Belgian colonization of the Congo was one of the strictest imposed by the European powers that ruled most of Africa in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

King Leopold II, brother of Philippe’s great-great-grandfather, oversaw the conquest of what is now the DRC, ruling the territory as his personal property between 1885 and 1908, before it became a Belgian colony.

According to historians, millions of people were killed, maimed or died of disease as they were forced to harvest rubber under their rule. The land was also plundered for its mineral wealth, wood and ivory.

In 2020, Philipp wrote a letter to Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi to express his “deepest regret” for the “wounds of the past”.

The visit is King Philipp’s first to the DRC since his accession to the throne in 2013. His father King Albert II visited the country in 2010.

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