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Faith Nyasuguta 

A burial ceremony has been held in the Democratic Republic of Congo to lay to rest the gold-crowned tooth of independence hero Patrice Lumumba over 60 years after he was assassinated.

Since his death, the tooth is the only existing part of his body after his remains were dissolved in acid.

The Belgian policeman that oversaw the disposal took the tooth as a trophy.

A coffin, containing Patrice Lumumba’s tooth, was sent to several parts of DR Congo before Thursday’s funeral /BBC/

The tooth was taken back to his family last week and has made rounds in several parts of DR Congo in a coffin.

People were able to pay their respects ahead of the funeral that is took place in the capital, Kinshasa.

President Félix Tshisekedi, Lumumba’s family and other dignitaries graced the service which took place before the transfer of the coffin to a specially built mausoleum.

The children of Patrice Lumumba, from left, Roland, Juliana and Francois, stand next to the casket with the mortal remains of Patrice Lumumba during a ceremony at the Egmont Palace in Brussels, Monday, June 20, 2022. On Monday, more than sixty one years after his death, the mortal remains of Congo’s first democratically elected prime minister Patrice Lumumba were handed over to his children during an official ceremony in Belgium 🇧🇪 /AP/

Lumumba was the DRC’s first prime minister and one of the leaders of the struggle for independence. He was also seen as one of the most prominent voices in Africa’s anti-colonial movement.

Thursday, June 30, marked 62 years since the former colonial power Belgium relinquished control of the vast country.

The coloniser, however, viewed Lumumba as a stumbling block to its efforts to maintain their influence as well as hold on to important economic interests.

Showing courage, Lumumba, in a famous speech on independence day in 1960, in front of Belgian dignitaries including King Baudouin, he castigated Belgium saying that the Congolese had been held in “humiliating slavery”.

It shocked the Belgians as a black African had never dared speak like this in front of Europeans.

In just two months, Lumumba was later toppled as prime minister. In January 1961, with the tacit backing of Belgium, he was shot by a firing squad, along with two allies.

Patrice Lumumba /AP/

Belgian policeman Gerard Soete was given the job of getting rid of the evidence. It was during that process that he pocketed the tooth and took it back with him to Belgium.

It was decades later that he revealed that he still had the tooth and it was only two years ago that Belgium agreed that it should be returned to the family.

The Covid pandemic slowed down the process but last week it was handed over in Brussels.

Belgian policeman Gerard Soete kept the tooth in a padded box in his home in Belgium /Jelle Vermeersch/
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Faith Nyasuguta

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