DRCongo invites Belgian king to 50th independence fete

17th March 2010, Comments 0 comments

The Democratic Republic of Congo has invited Belgium's King Albert II to visit its former star colony for its 50th independence anniversary, the foreign minister said Tuesday, in a sign of easing strains.

KINSHASA - Alexis Thambwe Mwamba told AFP that last week he had presented the invitation for the June 30 celebrations from President Joseph Kabila to Belgium's ambassador.

"The invitation letter for June 30 was signed by the president and was addressed to the Belgian king," he added.

Twenty-five years after the last Belgian royal visit, when the Congo was in the grip of Zaire dictator Joseph Mobutu, Prime Minister Yves Leterme has "given its agreement in principle" to the trip, according to his spokesman.

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

Relations suffered a blow last April 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.

The DR Congo and Belgium agreed in principle to reopen Belgian consulates in the country in February.


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