Belgian King's 'deep regret' over Congo suffering

Belgium's King Philippe expressed his "deep regret" on Tuesday (June 30) for the "suffering and humiliation" inflicted on the Democratic Republic of Congo during its 75 years under Belgian rule.

According to his royal palace, it marks the first time a reigning Belgian monarch has communicated remorse for the atrocities committed in the European country's colonial past.

DRC was a Belgian colony for 52 years and for 23 years before that the personal property of King Leopold II - whose troops maimed and killed millions of people.

In a letter to DRC President Felix Tshisekedi, Philippe said quote "acts of cruelty were committed" during Leopold's reign, while the subsequent colonial period "caused suffering and humiliation."

The expression of regret has been sent for the 60th anniversary of DRC's independence and also comes as statues of Leopold have been defaced or removed in Belgium amid global anti-racism protests.

In the Matonge quarter, home to the Congolese diaspora in Brussels, they're celebrating independence on Tuesday and restaurant manager Monique Fodderie says she understands why statues have been targeted.

"One must recognize that a lot of countries we call developed, industrialized, civilized - have built their towns with a lot from Africa. And this is not being taught in history books or schools. And I believe that this is what should be changed."

In his letter, Philippe pledged to "continue to fight every form of racism" and welcomed the Belgian parliament's move to launch a reconciliation commission to address racism and the country's colonial past.

But his tone was different to one struck by his younger brother earlier this month when he said Leopold could not have made people suffer in the Congo because he never visited his colony.