Last remains of Congolese independence hero Lumumba to return home
The handover ceremony will mark the beginning of an official period of mourning in which both Belgium and the Democratic Republic of the Congo will reflect on their troubled histories and lay to rest a national hero.
During an interview in Brussels, François and Roland Lumumba explained how they traveled to make arrangements and set dates for the events commemorating their father’s death in the Belgian capital.
Belgium, which once ruled a vast swath of central Africa as the Belgian Congo, will finally return the tooth thought to be Patrice Lumumba’s last human remains.
Victim of Cold War
During the chaos that followed the territory’s 1960 declaration of independence, he was murdered on 17 January 1961 by separatists and Belgian mercenaries in the breakaway province of Katanga. The young republic’s first prime minister was viewed as a victim of Cold War rivalries in Washington and Brussels, where he was perceived as a potential friend of the Soviet Union.
His body was dissolved in acid after he was shot, but Belgium has now recovered a tooth that was apparently kept as a souvenir by a Flemish police commissioner who participated in the disposal of the remains.
“For us, this is his remains, it means a lot to us,” said Roland Lumumba, the third of the late premier’s children after François and daughter Juliana, who last year wrote to Philippe, King of the Belgians, to ask for the tooth.
“As Africans we could not bring our grieving to an end without part of his remains among us. We have come to the end of a legal dispute that has lasted 60 years, and we are satisfied,” he told AFP.
Ceremonies will be held in Brussels on the 21st and 22nd of June, with Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi expected to attend.
Tshisekedi has stated that he intends to build a mausoleum for Lumumba in Kinshasa.
The history of Belgium’s involvement in the Congo before and after independence has remained contentious, but a parliamentary inquiry conducted in 2000-2001 concluded that Belgium bore “moral responsibility” for Lumumba’s assassination.
In 2002, Brussels issued an official apology for its actions in the Congo.