Prince Philippe, Duke of Brabant and Princess Mathilde are in Burundi for the celebrations of 50 years of independence since Belgium recognized that status in 1962. This also is the anniversary year of independence for Rwanda but the Belgian Crown Prince and Princess have not been welcome to visit everywhere in both countries due to bad feelings in much of Rwanda and Burundi toward Belgium. This is really unfortunate because Belgium has been insulted and accused of the most horrible role in the sad history of these countries, most painful of all being the genocide in Rwanda and it is entirely untrue that the Belgian people, then or now, have been in any way responsible for this. First, Belgium is often blamed for creating the division of the Hutus and the Tutsis and this, it is said, ultimately led to the Hutu genocide of the Tutsis when many people claim they are the same people with no difference at all. But this is untrue. What distinctions existed before the arrival of the Europeans, I cannot say, but Rwanda-Burundi were first part of German East Africa and it was the German colonial officials who designated the different groups and tried to standardize things to make their colonial government more efficient. All of this was already in place when Belgium gained the countries in World War I during the Belgian offensive against German East Africa, ending in the capture of the German outer capital of Tabora.
There is now not a single crime that the Belgian authorities are not accused of committing. Every national figure of Rwanda or Burundi who faced misfortune or who was killed, it is accused that Belgian agents were always responsible. Is there at all any evidence for any these accusations? No, absolutely no and never. Still, the accusations and assumptions go on being made. In Rwanda, the Belgian administration was blamed for the vote which deposed King Kigeli V but at the same time Belgium is accused of being responsible for the death of King Mutara III which allowed his brother Kigeli V to take the throne (and Mutara III had been a good ally of Belgium). In Burundi, King Mwabutsa IV could not keep control after independence because the Hutu-Tutsi division kept causing the murder of his prime ministers. But Belgium was not responsible for this, the Germans had created the divisions and during Belgian administration the peace had always been maintained. And King Mwabutsa IV was not overthrown by Belgian agents but by his own son which, of course, we were not involved in at all.
It would be nice if there could at last be peace and genuine friendship and cooperation between Belgium, Rwanda, Burundi and the Congo also after now 50 decades since the end of the Belgian colonial empire. Unfortunately, this cannot happen while those power-hungry individuals continue to blame every problem and misfortune on the Belgians of history so that they will not be held responsible for their own misrule. This encourages hatred and keeps always bitter feelings alive. Only when this stops can their at last be real friendship and cooperation again.
King Baudouin by The Mad Monarchist was just posted, a look at the life of the prior King who I know the 'Mad One' admires very much. The problems with the independence of the Belgian Congo are highlighted as probably the most difficult time of the reign of King Baudouin but the King was really very popular in Africa and visited the continent many times. Here are some photographic memories of King Baudouin in Africa:
King Baudouin and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia
King Baudouin and first Congo President Joseph Kasavubu
King Baudouin in Leopoldville with Congolese leaders
King Baudouin with King Mutara III of Rwanda
King Baudouin with colonial officials in the Congo
King Baudouin arrives in Burundi
King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola visit the Congo
King Baudouin with President Mobutu
King Baudouin with President Mobutu
King Baudouin with the (very tall) King Kigeli V of Rwanda
King Baudouin visits the Force Publique school
King Baudouin reading his speech giving independence to the Congo
Today in 1959 King Albert II and Queen Paola were married. Did the younger brother of the King and the Italian princess imagine at that time that they would ever have to take the position of being the King and Queen for the nation? King Baudouin was still not married, only a few years on the throne and everyone probably still assumed he would get married and be able to have children of his own and Prince Albert would only be in the position of perhaps Prince Laurent today. Would Queen Paola have given the same answer to the proposal if she knew she would one day have to be the Queen, with all of the pressures, scrutiny and responsibilities that position means? I hope so, but can we ever know for certain? Over 53 years of marriage, most certainly today, is a great accomplishment and, we all know, it has not always been easy for the first couple of Belgium. It is not worth talking about but all the people know things have not always gone perfectly for the King and Queen, there have been mistakes, hard times but, we give thanks, forgiveness and reconciliation in the end. I would not want to think of how things would be if the King had married someone else. Queen Paola has been the best queen in the world for Belgium and she really, I think, has always put the Belgian people first every time. The King also has had very large problems in the terms of politics, to deal with but he keeps always the 'ship of state' sailing forward. They also have been good parents, raising very good children. Congratulations to their Majesties then on a very successful 53 years of marriage today, taking alot of hard work but doing a great job together for the country!