Historic step, Belgium returns to the DRC a “relic” of Patrice Lumumba

Historic step, Belgium returns to the DRC a “relic” of Patrice Lumumba

Belgium returns Monday to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) a tooth of Patrice Lumumba having value of “relic”, which should make it possible to offer the Congolese a place dedicated to the memory of their ex-Prime Minister, tortured then shot dead in 1961.

This assassination, followed by the elimination of the body, dismembered and dissolved in acid, constitutes one of the darkest pages of the relationship between Belgium and its former colony, which became independent on June 30, 1960.

He is still the subject of a judicial investigation in Brussels for “war crime”, after the complaint filed in 2011 by François Lumumba, the eldest son of the assassinated leader, who pointed the finger at the responsibilities of a dozen officials. and Belgian diplomats.

The tooth is returned as part of this procedure. The file had thickened in 2016 with a complaint for “receiving”, the relatives seeing there the only way to have this human remains seized by justice.

The tooth had been kept as a souvenir by a Belgian policeman who participated in the disappearance of the body and who boasted about it in the media.

Monday morning, honoring his 2020 commitment, federal prosecutor Frédéric Van Leeuw must give the children of Patrice Lumumba “the box containing the tooth” attributed to their father, during a “private” ceremony scheduled for 10:00 a.m. (08:00 GMT) .

The case will be placed in a coffin during a “beer setting” scheduled this time in the presence of the Belgian and Congolese Prime Ministers, still at the Egmont Palace in Brussels, according to the official program.

Speeches will then be made in front of the coffin, before the national anthems of the two countries resound. At the end of the ceremony, the remains will be transported to the DRC Embassy.

She should fly to Kinshasa on Tuesday evening after a tribute from the Afro-descendant community in Brussels.

Independence hero who became the first Prime Minister of the former Belgian Congo (ex-Zaire, now the DRC), Patrice Lumumba was overthrown in September 60 by a coup d’etat.

– “Paternalism and racism” –

He was executed on January 17, 1961 with two brothers in arms by separatists from the Katanga region, with the support of Belgian mercenaries.

Perceived as pro-Soviet by Washington in the midst of the Cold War, considered a threat to Western economic interests in the Congo, he acquired after his death the stature of an African champion of anti-imperialism.

“Lumumba became in no time a martyr of decolonization, a hero for all the oppressed of the Earth”, summed up David Van Reybrouck in his book “Congo, une histoire”.

For his family, he remained a father or a grandfather to whom it was not possible to say goodbye. “The years pass and our father remains a dead man without a funeral oration”, wrote in 2020 his daughter Juliana in a letter to the King of the Belgians Philippe, demanding “the fair return of the relics”.

The restitution should allow relatives to finish their mourning and the Congolese government to erect a “Patrice Lumumba Memorial”, under construction in Kinshasa, on a major axis where a statue of the national hero already stands.

According to Congolese sources, a burial ceremony must be organized there on June 30, the anniversary of independence. Throughout the previous week, the coffin will have made stops at the emblematic places of the personal and political journey of the former leader.

“New pivotal moment” in the bilateral relationship, according to Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, the restitution comes just after a six-day trip by King Philippe to the DRC in early June, his first trip to the former colony during which he reiterated his “deepest regrets” for the “wounds” of the colonial period.

Monday morning, before the restitution ceremony, Philippe will have an interview with the Lumumba children at the Royal Palace.

A meeting strong in symbols for the descendant of King Leopold II, whose monarchy has now admitted that he had instituted at the end of the 19th century in the Congo “a regime marked by paternalism, discrimination and racism”.

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