However, the administration of prime minister Yves Leterme, is aiming to improve this state of affairs ahead of an official royal visit later this year. King Albert II intends to visit Kinshasa to take part in anniversary independence celebrations in June some 25 years after the last royal visit, when the Congo was led by Joseph Mobutu.
Relations between the two countries hit another low last year when Belgian foreign minister, Karel de Gucht, commented that too many officials operate in a corrupt manner. Albert will visit a country that has taken diplomatic measures since then withdrawing its ambassador from Brussels and in the east is still in the grip of a war over diamond and other mineral resources between Congolese forces and those of neighbours Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. This conflict has sadly become known as Africa’s Great War.
Despite accusations that Belgium had run the country largely for gains from these resources in 1959 the Brussels government invited independence leader Patrice Lumumba for talks to avoid a similar civil war that was ravaging the French controlled Algiers at the time. Lumumba was elected as the country’s first prime minister in 1960, but a coup later that year deposed him and in January 1961 he was murdered. The killers remain unknown.
Belgium hopes that the visit of the King later this year will offer the start of a friendlier relationship between the two countries than has been the case in the recent past and difficult historical events will be put to one side.