Belgium has returned the last remains of slain Congolese leader, Patrice Lumumba (a tooth) to his family, turning a page on a grim chapter in its colonial past.
Chief prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw handed over a small, bright blue box containing the tooth to the family in a televised ceremony, and disclosed that the legal action they had taken to receive the relic had delivered “justice”.
The tooth would be placed in a casket and airlifted to the Democratic Republic of Congo, which celebrates Lumumba, who was killed by separatists and Belgian mercenaries in 1961, as an anti-colonial hero.
While talking at a press conference recently Lumumba’s son, Roland, said the restitution would allow his family to “finish their mourning”.
Lumumba’s gruesome murder and the sad history of Belgium’s control over Congo have been enduring sources of sadness between the two countries.
Lumumba, a fiery critic of the rapacious rule of Belgium, became the first Prime Minister of his country after it gained independence in 1960.
He was ousted in a coup after falling out with the formal colonial and the United States a few months after taking office.
He was killed on January 17 1961 at the age of 35, in the southern region of Katanga, with the backing of Belgian mercenaries.
His corpse was dissolved in acid and never found.
But his tooth was kept as a trophy by one of his killers, a Belgian police officer.
In 2016, the tooth was seized by Belgian authorities from the daughter of the policeman, Gerard Soete, after the family of Lumumba filed a complaint.
The DRC will hold three days of “national mourning” from 27 to 30 June — its 62nd anniversary of independence — to commemorate the burial ceremony of the remains in Kinshasa.
The children of Lumumba were also received by Belgium’s King Philippe, who travelled to DR Congo earlier this month to express his “deepest regrets” over the colonial past.
According to Historians, millions of people were murdered, mutilated, or died of disease as they were forced to take rubber under his rule. Also, the land was pillaged for its mineral wealth, timber, and ivory.
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