A court in Belgium has ruled that the tooth of the assassinated Congolese leader, Patrice Lumumba, be returned to his family.
The examining magistrate passed the judgement on Thursday September 10. It favoured the late statesman’s daughter, who had earlier called on Belgium to return her father’s relics.
““We the children of Lumumba, we the Lumumba family ask for the just return of the relics of Patrice Emery Lumumba to the ground of his ancestors,” Juliana Lumumba reportedly said in her letter to the King of Belgium.
She further described her father as “a hero without a grave”.
Who was Patrice Lumumba and how did he die?
Patrice Lumumba was the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Congo, today known as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He took power in 1960 at 34, following the country’s independence from Belgium that same year.
However, his stay in power was short-lived as he was murdered in 1961, following a coup. Prior to his death, he had been abducted by separatist fighters after the said coup.
Belgium largely had a hand in Lumumba’s assassination, and tendered a formal apology in 2002. American and British spy agencies also played a role in the murder, reports say.
After Congo’s independence, Belgium and other Western countries feared Lumumba would embrace the Soviet Union. To them, this would mean granting Moscow access to key resources such as uranium.
Lumumba’s body is said to have been dismembered and dissolved with acid. This was seen as an attempt to keep his grave from becoming a potential pilgrimage site.
In 2000, the Belgian Police Commissioner Gerard Soete openly confessed that he dismembered Lumumba’s body. He revealed that he later dissolved the remains in acid.
Lumumba’s tooth was allegedly pulled out during his dismembering, and taken to Belgium.
Lumumba’s family welcomes court ruling
After Thursday’s ruling, Patrice Lumumba’s family received the news with delight. Lumumba’s nephew, Jean Jacques Lumumba called the move “a good step.”
“[Lumumba] is a hero who we never buried, the decision [of a Belgian court] is a good step to know the truth…there will be phases to get there,” Mr. Jean Jacques said.
Now, 60 years since his assassination, Patrice Lumumba’s family might get a chance to see what was left of the man who many called a hero.