African hero P a t r i c e Lumumba’s remains, kept by Belgium since it murdered him 61 years ago, have been handed over to his relatives during a ceremony at Egmont Palace in Brussels.
The slain revolutionary PanAfricanist was the first Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Belgian authorities on Monday, ten days before the DRC’s 62nd independence anniversary on 30th June, returned a gold capped tooth belonging to the man who actualised Congolese independence.
Lumumba was an icon of the struggle against colonialism in Africa. During the private ceremony the federal prosecutor handed over a case containing the tooth to Lumumba relatives. The tooth was placed in a casket that was later draped in the flag of DR Congo. Lumumba became his country’s first prime minister after it gained independence in 1960. He was executed on January 17 1961, aged 35.
His body was dissolved in acid and never found but the tooth was kept as a trophy by one of those involved in his assassination, a Belgian police officer. The tooth was seized by Belgian authorities in 2016 from the daughter of the policeman, Gerard Soete, after Lumumba’s family filed a complaint, The Trumpet gathered.
His son, Roland Lumumba, last week said that the return of the tooth meant his family would be able to finish their mourning. Belgium’s prime minister Alexander De Croo told Congolese officials and Lumumba’s family that the restitution came way too late.
“It is not normal that Belgium held onto the remains of one of the founding fathers of the Congolese nation for six decades.” De Croo, also offered apologies for the role played by his country in the assassination.
The casket containing the tooth was set to be flown back to the DRC where it will be officially laid to rest at a memorial site. Congolese Prime minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde said the return of the relic will be essential for the country’s national memory.
The government of the DRC has declared three days of official mourning before the official burial of the tooth in Kinshasa at the end of this month.