DR Congo 'fed up' with Belgium over banana republic tag

13th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday accused Belgium of trying to portray it as a banana republic, saying it was "fed up" with being disparaged by its former colonial master.

Two weeks after Belgian King Albert II feted the country's 50th anniversary of independence from Belgium, government spokesman Lambert Mende said it was "unacceptable" how "the Belgian political class considers Congolese problems to be a domestic matter."

He also savaged Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme, who also attended the celebrations with the king, for his criticism of money spent on an impressive military parade in light of the country's poverty.

"It is as if there were no poverty in his own country before he stepped off a special flight from Brussels to Kinshasa and back, the cost of which was anything but a bargain," Mende said.

Mende also attacked questions over diamonds President Joseph Kabila gave to Belgian Queen Paola as a "private gift", blaming what he called a "campaign to undermine the credibility of the Congolese institutions."

DR Congo is portrayed "as a banana republic where nothing happens according to (international) norms, where time is passed showering visitors with gifts, blood diamonds, smuggled diamonds," he said.

Despite the tensions, Mende said that there was not a new "crisis" in the often fraught relations between Kinshasa and Brussels, just a "show of being fed up" on the side of the DR Congo, a country roughly the size of western Europe.

"We want another form of relations... Colonial relations are over... We are partners and we want to be treated with the respect owed to a partner," he said.

Since the mineral-rich, giant central African state's independence from Belgium in 1960, ties have been decidedly mixed.

Relations suffered a blow in April 2009 following remarks about corruption in the former Zaire by then Belgian foreign minister Karel De Gucht, now European Union trade commissioner.

In response, Kinshasa recalled its ambassador from Brussels and closed its consulate in the northern city of Antwerp, while Belgium was told to close its consulates in Lubumbashi in the south and Bukavu in the east.

The Belgian ambassador left the country altogether in December.

Both countries agreed in principle to normalise relations in February.

© 2010 AFP

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