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King and Queen leave for DR Congo

After having been postponed several times due to the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine, the visit of the Belgian royal couple to the Democratic Republic of Congo originally planned to mark the 60th anniversary of the country’s independence in 2020, gets underway today (Tuesday 7 June). King Filip and Queen Mathilde took off from Melsbroek Military Airport in Flemish Brabant on Tuesday morning. 

It will be King Filip and Queen Mathilde’s first visit to DR Congo as King and Queen and the first visit by the King and Queen of the Belgians to the former colony in twelve years. Accompanying the King and Queen are the Federal Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Flemish liberal), the Federal Development Aid Minister Meryame Kitir (Flemish socialist) and the Federal Secretary of State responsible for Science Policy, Thomas Dermine (Francophone socialist).

They will have a very busy next 7 days, travelling over 3,500km within the vast country. Lubumbashi in the south and Bukavu in the east are among the places that will be visited. On Tuesday evening the royal couple will be received by President Tshisekedi and his wife for a private dinner. Wednesday will begin with a wreath laying at the monument to veterans of the Force Publique, where a tribute will be paid to the last surviving member of this unit, which was involved in the two world wars on the African continent.

After this the Belgian Royal and the Congolese presidential couple will visit RD Congo’s National Museum that opened in 2019. They will then lunch with President Tshiekedi at his official presidential residence before visiting the Congolese parliament.,

After a visit to the "KinEmploi" project that receives financial backing from the Belgian development aid budget, the Belgian Royals will attend at an official banquet at the Cité de l'Union Africaine.

On Thursday the focus will be on women with a visit to the loincloth market where female traders sell their emblematic West African fabrics. Later in the day, a panel discussion on women's rights will take place at the Academy of Fine Arts.

The delegation will then leave the capital for Lubumbashi in the southern province of Katanga. There they will visit the Belgian school and the local university.

In Bukavu, in the eastern province of South Kivu, the King and Queen will visit the Panzi hospital. Founded in 1999 and run by the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Dr Denis Mukwege (photo archives) the hospital specialises in the treatment of victims of sexual violence.  

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