In the morning, the royal couple, the two ministers who are still accompanying them – Meryame Kitir and Thomas Dermine – as well as around forty accredited journalists boarded a Defense A440M to take the direction of Lubumbashi. A special experience that the King wanted to immortalize, both himself and through the press.
After 2h30 of flight, the sovereigns set foot in Katanga, where they were warmly welcomed by traditional dancers.
Their first trip took place at the private Belgian school in Lubumbashi (EPBL), which is celebrating its half-century of existence this year. The establishment has some 600 students, 64% of whom are Congolese and 22% Belgians. The educational team is 80% Belgian.
Teaching at the EPBL complies with the programs of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation and therefore gives its secondary school graduates direct access to Belgian universities, with all of which the school collaborates closely.
On site, the arrival of King Philippe and Queen Mathilde was greeted by cries, as well as a vibrant Brabançonne. The royal couple was then able to attend a demonstration of the Dutch language skills of the older children, discover the school’s educational farm with the little ones or even discuss astronomy with another group.
A few hours later, several thousand young people – up to 7,000 according to the organizers – had gathered in the open-air auditorium of the University of Lubumbashi (Unilu). Extremely enthusiastic and even more heated by the performance of a singer as well as by several pre-speeches, the students were visibly awaiting the King with impatience.
In his speech, the sovereign once again returned to the “sometimes painful” links of the past between the two countries, but he mainly addressed his audience. “I do not hesitate to say that the real wealth of the Congo is you, the young people, with your determination and your enthusiasm. A mine can be exhausted. The talent and the will of youth, their thirst for knowledge, on the other hand, are inexhaustible.
The students, so demonstrative a handful of hours earlier, listened religiously, without a sound, punctuating the King’s remarks only once, when the latter indicated that he would “bring back to Belgium (?) the will Congolese men and women to work for harmony and the inclusion of all”. The sovereign then attempted a touch of humour, before finally obtaining an ovation when he concluded in Swahili “Long live the friendship between Belgium and the Congo!”.
The delegation will still stay in Lubambashi on Saturday to visit various projects, notably of the Belgian development agency Enabel, before heading to Bukavu on Sunday, for the last day of the mission.