June 30 marks the 60th anniversary of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s independence from Belgium, whose colonial rule was particularly brutal. The Belgian king has expressed his ‘regrets’ over his nation’s colonial past.
Under Belgian rule, the Congolese were “mocked, insulted and beaten morning noon and night”, Congolese independence leader and the country’s first prime minister Patrice Lumumba said. “Our wounds are still too fresh for us to drive them from our memory,” he added. He was assassinated the following year, and Belgium later apologized for its involvement in his death.
Belgian colonial rule was so brutal that the population in Congo had fallen from 20 million in 1885 to just half that by 1908.
Belgium ruled over the colony for 75 years, but never allowed a Congolese elite to rise to power, so when its Belgian overlords left on June 30,1960 few there knew how to manage the nation’s administrations. Those fragile foundations hampered the creation of a strong democratic state.
Today, despite huge troves of natural resources, more than 70 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty. (VOA)