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King Philippe Of Belgium Postpones Trip To The DR Congo Due To Ukraine Crisis

Belgium's King Philippe has postponed a historic visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the country's former colony, because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the royal palace announced Monday.

The visit, the monarch's first to the DRC since ascending the throne in 2013, has been showcased as a chance for reconciliation for atrocities and other abuses committed during colonial rule.

The trip had originally been scheduled to take place in June 2020 to mark the DRC's 60th anniversary of independence, but was rescheduled to 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The visit was set for March 6-10, but will now be "postponed to a later date because of the invasion of Ukraine and the crisis this is generating," the palace said in a statement.

The decision was made "in close consultations" with DRC President Felix Tshisekedi, it said.

The trip, which would include King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, Prime Minister Alexandre De Croo and other ministers, may be rescheduled in the coming months.

In a letter to Tshisekedi to mark the 2020 anniversary, King Philippe had expressed his "deepest regret for the wounds of the past."

"Acts of violence and cruelty were committed, which still weigh on our collective memory," he wrote.

Historians say that millions of people in the Belgian Congo were killed, mutilated or died of disease as they worked on rubber plantations belonging to Leopold II, Belgium's monarch from 1865-1909.

The growth of the Black Lives Matter movement has seen several colonial-era statues removed in Belgium.

Belgium is also preparing to return to Kinshasa a tooth of Patrice Lumumba, a hero of the anti-colonial struggle and short-lived first prime minister of the independent Congo.

Lumumba was murdered by Congolese separatists and Belgian mercenaries in 1961, and his body dissolved in acid, but the tooth was kept as a trophy by one of his killers.

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