Category Archives: EMBASSIES

Belgium sends Special Envoy to Burundi

Burundi’s long-serving President Pierre Nkurunziza promised on Thursday to step down when his term ends in 2020, easing fears of fresh violence in the impoverished country.

Nkurunziza had been widely expected to take advantage of recent changes to the constitution to stand for two more terms – raising concerns that Burundi would see a repeat of the unrest that erupted after he stood for a third time in 2015.

My term is ending in 2020” – he said a ceremony.

This constitution was not modified for Pierre Nkurunziza as the country’s enemies have been saying. It was amended for the good and better future of Burundi and the Burundian people,” he said in the speech broadcast on state television.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders welcomes the announcement by the President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza of the end of his mandate in 2020. The principle of democratic alternation lies at the heart of the Arusha Accords and of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

Following this announcement, Belgium hopes that the authorities of Burundi will now start working on opening up the public and democratic space, as an essential step towards the elections in 2020. Belgium therefore pleads for a resumption of an inclusive dialogue, under the aegis of the region and in the spirit of the Arusha agreement. Minister Reynders has decided to send his Special Envoy for the Great Lakes to Burundi to bring this message.

 

Belgium downgraded diplomatic presence in DRC

Bertrand de Crombrugghe is no longer the ambassador of Belgium in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Belgian Foreign Ministry confirmed it on Monday (30/04/2018) after the publication of an article in the Dutch newspaper De Standaard.

In January, the diplomat left Kinshasa amid diplomatic tensions between the two countries, officially for “a series of consultations“. Finally, he was relieved from his duties.
When Bertrand de Crombrugghe abruptly left Kinshasa at the end of January, some had already spoken of a “rupture” of relations, however  the Foreign Ministry was downplaying the crisis. “This is not a reminder in the diplomatic sense of the term,” explained one of his spokespersons. Technically, it is a return to Brussels for discussions for ten days, he added.

Three months later, it was finally decided to call him back. The reason given is “the bilateral context”. In other words, the diplomatic turmoil  between the two countries, but not only bilaterally.  Kinshasa has announced the closure of the new Belgian development agency and  the EU Schengen house. Brussels also recalls that the DRC has no ambassador in Belgium for over a year. But the Dutch-language newspaper De Standard coming up with the news, points to a “breach of trust” between the ambassador and the Belgian Foreign Ministry.

Belgium says it is maintaining dialogue with the DRC and hopes that bilateral tensions can be resolved “so that Belgium and the DRC can again be represented at a level of ambassador in Kinshasa and Brussels. Meanwhile, the interim at the Belgian Embassy in Kinshasa is provided by Philippe Bronchain, former Belgian Consul General in Lubumbashi, where the Consulate was closed upon DRC request last February.

Ethiopia reopens debate on repatriation of artefacts

The UK  must permanently return all artifacts from Ethiopia held by the Victoria and Albert Museum and Addis Ababa will not accept them on loan, an Ethiopian government official said. The statement comes after the museum, one of London’s most emblematic tourist attractions, put Ethiopian treasures plundered by British forces in 1868 on display.

Well, it would be exciting if the items held at the V&A could be part of a long-term loan with a cultural institution in Ethiopia,” museum director Tristram Hunt said.

These items have never been on a long-term loan in Ethiopia, but as we look to the future I think what we’re interested in are partnerships around conservation, interpretation, heritage management, and these need to be supported by government assistance so that institutions like the V&A can support sister institutions in Ethiopia.”

Among the items on display are sacred manuscripts and gold taken from the Battle of Maqdala 150 years ago, when British troops ransacked the fortress of Emperor Tewodros II. The offer of a loan did not go far enough for Ethiopia.

 

“What we have asked (for) was the restitution of our heritage, our Maqdala heritage, looted from Maqdala 150 years ago. We presented our request in 2007 and we are waiting for it,” government minister Hirut Woldemariam said.

 “It is clearly known where these treasures came from and whom they belong to. Our main demand has never been to borrow them. Ethiopia’s demand has always been the restoration of those illegally looted treasures. Not to borrow them” – Ephrem Amare, Ethiopian National Museum director, added.

The V&A said the proposal of a long-term loan had come up as it discussed its Maqdala exhibition with Ethiopian authorities. “The   V&A  is committed to continuing this important and wide-ranging dialogue with colleagues at the Ethiopian Embassy in London,” it added in a statement.

In launching the Maqdala 1868 exhibition of what Hunt called “stunning pieces with a complex history” this month, he said the display had been organized in consultation with the Ethiopian community in London.

 “As custodians of these Ethiopian treasures, we have a responsibility to celebrate the beauty of their craftsmanship, shine a light on their cultural and religious significance and reflect on their living meaning, while being open about how they came to Britain,” he said in a blog on the museum website.