Congo closes consulate in Antwerp
The Congo authorities are redefining relations with Belgium after a recent comment made by the Belgian foreign minister.26 May 2008
BELGIUM – The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has recalled its ambassador in Belgium and closed down the Congolese consulate in Antwerp.
The Congolese are unhappy with a recent pronouncement by Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht.
In April, De Gucht visited Congo with a Belgian ministerial delegation where he upset the Congolese authorities by insisting on greater transparency in economic affairs and greater action against corruption.
After the visit, the dust seemed to have settled, but in a recent interview with the Luxembourg TV station RTL, the foreign minister spoke of Belgium's "moral right" vis-à-vis the DRC.
On Friday the Congolese government decided to redefine its relations with Belgium.
High level talks
On Saturday evening, several Belgian cabinet ministers discussed the situation. The talks involved the Belgian Foreign, Defence and International Development Ministers, who travelled to Congo in April, as well as Deputy Premiers representing all coalition partners.
The Belgian Government will meanwhile await official notification from Kinshasa.
De Gucht has also responded to strong criticism from the governing Francophone socialists. Francophone socialist leader Elio Di Rupo had accused De Gucht of paternalism and neo-colonialism.
De Gucht says that Belgium channels millions of euros to Congo each year and that the Belgian Government has a right to speak out when things are going wrong and when matters should be addressed differently.
De Gucht said that if pointing out to the Congolese that they had to make an effort too meant he was a neo-colonialist, then he said that he was "a committed neo-colonialist”.
[flandersnews.be / Expatica]