Fans of Walloons or the Flemish? School pupils wait for the arrival of Belgium's Albert II. Kinshasa, 29 June.

Anything to celebrate in DR Congo?

While the Democratic Republic of the Congo celebrates the 50th anniversary of its independence, the European press wonders about the future of the country, which remains a symbol of colonisation on the African continent.

Published on 30 June 2010 at 16:40
Fans of Walloons or the Flemish? School pupils wait for the arrival of Belgium's Albert II. Kinshasa, 29 June.

Today the Democratic Republic of the Congo welcomes a representative of its one-time colonial master to participate in celebrations for the 50th anniversary of its independence. "King Albert II has arrived in Kinshasa, the capital of battered country, which in its effort to overcome the horrific legacy of bloodshed, has rolled out the bunting," remarks Lye Yoka in the columns of Le Soir. The Congolese writer and playwright also notes that the atmosphere in the country has been troubled by the recent murder of human rights activist Floribert Chebeya.

The unfortunate background to the celebrations is not simply defined by Belgian-Congolese relations, because the DRC "is a state that epitomises so many of Africa's historic and contemporary problems," points out The Independent. The British daily looks back on the sorry tale of Western support for Mobutu during the Cold War and the civil war that caused the death of 3 million people between 1998 and 2003. But that is not all - political killings remain a sad fact of life in a country which has "been cursed" by immense natural resources which are coveted by foreign powers.

Colonialism and Cold War consigned to the past

After 50 years of Congolese independence, Belgium, Europe and the West should attempt to come to terms with where they went wrong. According to De Standaard, “the commonly accepted analysis is that colonialism destroyed the country's indigenous political structures. Belgium did not prepare the Congolese for independence which came too quickly, and thereafter it did all it could to maintain an economic hold on its former colony."

However, the Flemish daily argues that "colonialism along with the Cold War can now be consigned to the past. Today the country has an opportunity to build a new future. If Nelson Mandela had remained focused on the history of apartheid, his country would now be a ruin that could never have hoped to host the World Cup. After 50 years of independence, there is nothing more colonialist than the belief that colonialism is still preventing DRC from embracing a better future. A better future is possible, but only the Congolese political class and the Congolese population can make it happen.”

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Congo is an African disaster

Writer Lye Yoka identifies "two key challenges: the DRC must assert itself as a stable regional power, which is worthy of respect and respectable, while Europe must assume its responsibility as a former colonial power that has set aside any irredentism to offer hospitality and help in the cause of social justice." Europe, however, is not the only emerging partner for the DRC: Le Soir reports that "Belgium is aware of the fact that its former colony is now an emerging power. The ceremonies will also be attended by most of African countries, and by Brazil's President Lula who is much admired by President Kabila."

In the final analysis, The Independent believes "The best hope for Congo is regional co-operation, and firm action from the African Union to prevent the state's neighbours preying on its resources. Congo is an African disaster. And, ultimately, only Africa will be able to offer its long-suffering people the chance of a better future."

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