DR Congo President arrives in Belgium on first official Europe visit

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Felix Tshisekedi arrived in Belgium late Monday on his first official visit to Europe, aiming to normalise relations with the former colonial power which were strained under the vast African nation’s previous leader’s refusal to step down.

Tshisekedi travelled to Washington in April where he met with United States (US) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

But this trip to Belgium marks his first time in Europe since being declared, on December 30, 2018, the winner of the presidential poll in the DRC.

He is set to have lunch with Belgium’s king and queen before making a speech at the Belgian Enterprise Federation (FEB) in Brussels.

He will make a “working visit” to Anvers in north Belgium today for a meeting with representatives of the diamond industry.

His landlocked nation is rich in natural resources including diamonds, uranium, timber and gold but chronic instability has hindered the Central African Republic’s (CAR) development and around three-quarters of its 4.6 million inhabitants live in poverty, according to the World Bank.

Tshisekedi is scheduled for talks with outgoing European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker tomorrow.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said the DRC leader’s visit aims to “gradually” re-establish relations which have been hurt by former president Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down when his mandate ended.

Kabila finally gave up his position in August 2018, but after the election his party maintained a majority in Parliament and his partisans hold key posts in Tshisekedi’s government.

Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi and his wife Denise arrive for an official visit of several days in Belgium, in Melsbroek military airport. PHOTO: AFP