Spread the love

Renson Mwakandana

Belgian officials have returned a tooth to the children of assassinated Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba, in a further step toward acknowledging the country’s cruel exploitation of the former colony.

Lumumba, the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) 🇨🇩, then known as the Republic of Congo, and an emblem of the African anti-colonial fight, was slain allegedly by separatists, Belgian mercenaries in 1961 in cohorts with CIA. The relic is all that remains of him.

Primr Minister Patrice Lumumba of the Republic of Congo 🇨🇩 /Courtesy/

His assassins dissolved his body in acid, while some preserved his teeth as gruesome souvenirs. On Monday morning, the gold-capped tooth was presented to a group of family members at the Egmont Palace in Brussels in a light blue casket.

It was put in a coffin and transported to the DRC’s embassy as a first step toward repatriation. Lumumba’s son Roland stated last week that the tooth’s return allowed his family to complete their grieving.

Belgium hopes to put an end to one of the most violent and disgraceful incidents in the country’s murderous exploitation of central Africa by returning the tooth.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo acknowledged the country’s “moral responsibility” for Lumumba’s death.

De Croo remarked, “This is a painful and disagreeable truth, but must be spoken. A man was murdered for his political convictions, his words, his ideals.”

Alexander de Croo
Belgian Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo /GETTY IMAGES/

The monarch of Belgium paid his first visit to the DRC earlier this month, but he did not issue a formal apology.

Lumumba became the first democratically elected leader of his country in 1960. He was a charismatic but King Philippe pan-Africanist who played a significant role in the war for independence.

As order crumbled in the new state and rebel factions in the mineral-rich Katanga region pushed to break away, he became a victim of cold war politics and internal power struggles within a year.

Officials in the West were concerned that Lumumba would choose the Soviet Union as a protector, allowing Moscow access to vitally important resources like uranium.

“Deepest regrets for the wounds of the past,” King Philippe said, describing a “regime …. of unequal relations, unjustifiable in itself, marked by paternalism, discrimination and racism” which “led to violent acts and humiliations”.

Belgium’s King Philippe

Lumumba was imprisoned, tortured, and killed by a hastily prepared firing squad following a military coup.

Belgium finally admitted “moral responsibility” for his death after 40 years. The CIA had also devised a strategy to assassinate the 35-year-old lawmaker. The facts regarding Lumumba’s assassination, on the other hand, took decades to surface.

Gerard Soete, a Belgian police commissioner, admitted to dismembering Lumumba’s body and dissolving the remains in acid in 2000. Soete exhibited two teeth he said belonged to Lumumba in a program broadcast on German television.

Ludo de Witte, a Belgian scholar, filed a complaint against Soete’s daughter in 2016 when she presented a gold tooth she claimed belonged to Lumumba during a media interview. Belgian officials then grabbed the tooth.

Patrice Lumumba’s only relic – a gold tooth. Image: Jelle Vermeersch

For many in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lumumba represents what the country may have been after independence. Instead, it was engulfed in decades of tyranny, violence and geopolitics, which depleted the country’s huge mineral wealth.

The 60th anniversary of Congo’s independence triggered renewed requests to lay Lumumba’s “soul to rest” two years ago. Protesters gathered outside the Belgian embassy in Kinshasa, demanding that his bones and cultural artifacts seized under colonial rule be returned.

Following the assassination of George Floyd in the United States, international anti-racist rallies in Belgium gave activists trying to remove monuments to King Leopold II removed.

Before the ceremonial burial of the tooth in Kinshasa at the end of this month, the DRC government has proclaimed three days of national mourning.

Belgium returns remains of Congolese leader Lumumba to family in Belgium. Photo: Dursun Aydemir

Belgium has just lately begun to confront the consequences of its rubber, ivory, and wood exploitation in the Congo. During the first 23 years of Belgium’s administration, when King Leopold II controlled the Congo Free State as a personal domain, up to 10 million people died of famine and illness. Others were assassinated or intentionally injured in order to motivate others to work harder in order to meet unattainable quotas of profitable resources.


About Author


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *