Belgian authorities have returned a tooth of Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba to his family, 61 years after he was assassinated by agents of the former colonial power.
The tooth is all that remains of Mr. Lumumba, the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and a fierce revolutionary who led his country’s campaign for independence from Belgium.
He was an icon of the fight against colonialism in Africa, but was murdered by Belgian separatists and mercenaries in 1961. His killers dissolved his remains in acid, although some kept his teeth as macabre souvenirs.
A tooth was recovered from a Belgian police commissioner, Gerard Soete, who in 2000 confessed to being part of the murder of Mr. Lumumba.
According to The UK GuardianThe gold-covered tooth was handed over in a light blue case to a group of relatives at Egmont Palace in Brussels on Monday morning.
He was placed in a coffin that will be taken to the DRC embassy.
Mr Lumumba’s son, Roland Lumumba, said last week that the return of the tooth meant his family could “end their mourning”.
According to Alexander de Croo, Belgian Prime Minister, “this is a painful and unpleasant truth, but it must be said”.
“A man was assassinated for his political convictions, his words, his ideals,” he added.
ALSO READ: Nigerian corruption convictions not enough: Patrick Lumumba
In addition, King Philippe of Belgium paid his first visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo earlier this month, where he expressed “the deepest regret for the wounds of the past”, describing the Belgian government as a “regime…. of unequal relationships, unjustifiable in themselves, marked by paternalism, discrimination and racism” that “led to violent acts and humiliation”.
The DRC government has declared three days of official mourning ahead of the tooth’s official burial in Kinshasa later this month.
As many as 10 million people died of starvation and disease during the first 23 years of Belgian rule since 1885, when King Leopold II ruled the Congo Free State as a personal fiefdom.
Chiamaka Okafor is a reporter for Premium Times in collaboration with report to the worldthat unites local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on hidden issues around the world.”