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Tense relations between the DRC and Belgium

Congo News Agency - April 25, 2008

Joseph Kabila
©Presse Presidentielle

In an interview published in the Belgian newspaper Le Soir on Wednesday, President Joseph Kabila said he did not appreciate the message brought to him by three Belgian ministers visiting the Congo this week. Joseph Kabila met twice with Karel De Gucht (Foreign Affairs), Charles Michel (Cooperation) and Pieter de Crem (Defense) on Tuesday. The Belgian government has said that the ministers were speaking on behalf of the government.

President Kabila is quoted as saying that "Belgium must make a choice on the type of relationship it wants to have with the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has a choice between having good relations as partners in a mature relationship with a sovereign and independent state or a master-slave relationship".

He said that "I will note that every time a Belgian delegation is led by the minister of foreign affairs; it is with a lot of arrogance, as if our visitors are coming here to lecture us. This is unacceptable. The Congo will never accept this, definitely not me".

President Kabila said that among the topics discussed was the request by the Democratic Republic of Congo that the expert on Human Rights mandate not be renewed. The United Nations Human Rights Council discontinued the post in March. Belgian newspapers have reported that Belgian government had asked the Congolese government not to make such a request. Other human rights organizations and NGOs have decried the decision.

The Congolese government was supported by other African nations led by Egypt at the meeting. These countries argued that human rights experts should only be appointed by the Human Rights Council when the government of the country at issue agrees the situation warrants one.

On this issue President Kabila said: "Aren't we a sovereign country? Our decisions are based on our interest, our policies and the development of our country". "A special human rights observer here" Why only here and not in other African countries?".

Belgium has lost a lot of the influence it once held in the Congo as a former colonial power. New players such as China and South Africa are eager to invest in the vast mineral-rich country without asking a lot of questions about human rights, democracy or corruption.

Asked if the Congo still had a special relationship with Belgium, President Kabila replied that "Yes, but Belgium is primarily a partner. Myself, well I hope that Belgium will always be a friend, a friendly country, with which I personally have no problem. But a year and a half after the elections, you cannot deal with the Democratic Republic of Congo as if we were in the nineties which were marked by the National Sovereign Conference, the transition, wars and so on. You should know that the Congo has completely changed, and that is the starting point: there is a legitimate power in place. Even before, I could not accept that people deal with our country as if it was still a colony".

Asked if the incident with Belgium was closed, President Kabila replied that "There was no incident, because I did not want one, there was only the beginning of an incident, something like a provocation. I only know that in Angola, South Africa, Tanzania, Sudan and elsewhere, if the Belgian delegation carried a message like the one it did here, it would have been forced to leave. This is the last time I agreed to receive a delegation carrying such a message. The next time there will certainly have an incident".

Source: Interviewed by Collette Brackman, Le Soir

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