Day one of the Congolese president’s first official visit in the country saw hundreds show up at the foreign affairs ministry to protest Belgium’s support of a president they see as illegitimate.
Between 100 and 150 demonstrators marched up to Brussels’ Egmont palace, which houses the foreign affairs ministry, booing and chanting out a list of accusations against president Félix Tshisekedi.
Banging on pans and wrapped in the flag of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the protesters carried banners and protests signs calling Tshisekedi a “pseudo-president,” an “usurper” and a “national shame,” according to the Belga news agency.
Tuesday’s protest against the leader’s narrow presidential victory draws further attention to Tshisekedi’s symbolic four-day visit to Belgium, which marks his first visit to continental Europe since he was elected to power in December.
The official trip could also signal a shift in the country’s foreign policy, as Tshisekedi is the first Congolese president to visit Belgium since 2007.
The protesters called out Belgian leaders for recognising Tshisekedi as DRC’s president, singling out the outgoing minister of foreign affairs, Didier Reynders, who they labelled a “collaborationist.”
Belgian and Congolese NGOs called on Belgian leaders to use Tshisekedi’s visit to push for human rights and rule of law reforms in the country.
“Belgium can play a role with its Congolese partners by supporting institutional reforms and the fight against impunity and corruption,” and by supporting human rights, the Brussels-based Justice & Peace NGO said.
The Congolese president is next expected to meet with Belgian business representatives, with a visit to the Port of Antwerp slated for Wednesday.