King of Belgians to visit Congo as strained ties ease

11th March 2010, Comments 0 comments

The king of the Belgians, Albert II, will attend 50th anniversary celebrations of former colony Democratic Republic of Congo's independence, the Belgian government said Wednesday in the strongest sign yet of strained relations easing.

BRUSSELS - 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's spokesman told AFP that his cabinet has "given its agreement in principle" to the trip in June.

Since the mineral-rich, giant central African state's independence in 1960, ties have been decidedly mixed, with relations suspended 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 Lumumbashi 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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