Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel has expressed "sincere regrets" on behalf of his government for Belgium’s role in the killing in 1961 of then Congolese leader, Patrice Lumumba.
"The government feels it is pertinent and right to present to the family of Patrice Lumumba... and the Congolese people its profound and sincerest regrets," Reuters reported him as saying on Tuesday during a parliamentary debate on the findings of an inquiry into Lumumba’s death, completed last November, and which found Belgium to be "morally responsible".
"Certain members of government... and certain Belgian officials of that time carry an irrefutable part of the responsibility in the events that led to the death of Patrice Lumumba," Reuters quoted him as saying.
"The general attitude of neutrality and apathy for the fate of Patrice Lumumba could be qualified as a serious lack of good management and respect for the rule of law," he added.
Lumumba was the first and only democratically elected leader of present-day Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), following Belgium’s 75 years of colonial rule, which ended in 1960. The socialist leader, who was one of the key figures in ejecting colonialism, was overthrown only months after taking office, abducted by Congolese rivals and taken to the breakaway province of Katanga, where he was murdered, in February 1961.
The commission of inquiry found that Belgian politicians had been involved in the transfer of Lumumba to Katanga Province, which was controlled by his enemies, AFP reported. It was "manifestly clear that the government was unconcerned with Lumumba’s integrity", the agency quoted the report as stating.
The Belgian commission of inquiry, which completed its work over a period of two years, heard testimony that Lumumba could not have been assassinated without the complicity of Belgian officers, backed by the US Central Intelligence Agency, AFP stated.
The Belgian government has decided to finance a Patrice Lumumba foundation with over US $3 million, plus a yearly grant of over US $430,000. The money would be contributed to the DRC through projects involving conflict prevention, or the awarding of study grants, and Lumumba’s family would be associated with the fund, Belgian RTBF radio reported on Tuesday.
A spokesman from the Congolese embassy in Nairobi told IRIN on Tuesday that while the DRC was very happy with the apology, that more concrete action with regard to the Congolese war was wished for. "It’s a very big step, but it’s not enough. We are still struggling, the aggressors come from outside and we want them out," he said, adding that both diplomatic and financial support were required to end the Congolese war.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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