Patrice Lumumba, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) independence hero’s gold-crown tooth has been buried more than 60 years after he was assassinated.
Lumumba’s remains were dissolved in acid with the tooth being the only part of his body that still exists after it was preserved as a trophy by the Belgian policeman who oversaw the disposal.
The tooth which was returned to the family last week has toured several parts of DRC in a coffin which enabled the people of DRC to pay their respects before the funeral took place in the capital, Kinshasa.
President Félix Tshisekedi, together with Lumumba’s family and other dignitaries were at the private service which took place just before the coffin was transferred to a specially built mausoleum on a road named in his honour.
“May the land of our ancestors be sweet and mild to you,” said the president adding that “Finally, we are ending… mourning we started 61 years ago. The Congolese people can have the honour of offering a burial to their illustrious prime minister,” said President Tshisekedi.
Lumumba was DRC’s first prime minister and one of the pioneers of the struggle towards the country’s independence.
On 30th June, DRC marked 62 years since Belgium, the country’s colonial power gave control of the vast country back to its natives.
Belgium viewed Lumumba as a barrier to its efforts to maintain influence as well as hold on to important economic interests and as such, he is regarded as one of the most prominent voices in Africa’s anti-colonial movement.
In a famous speech on independence day in 1960, delivered before dignitaries from Belgian including King Baudouin, Lumumba, aged 34, castigated Belgium saying that the Congolese had been held in “humiliating slavery.”
The statement stunned Belgians who believed that no a black African would ever speak like this in front of Europeans. The speech also made other Western powers suspicious of him, including the USA, and they plotted to assassinate him.
Two months after he took over power, Lumumba was overthrown as prime minister and in January 1961, he was shot by a firing squad of Belgium, along with his two allies.
A Belgian policeman, Gerard Soete, was assigned to get rid of the evidence, however, during the same process, he pocketed the victim’s tooth and took it back with him to Belgium.
Decades later, Soete revealed that he still had the tooth and two years ago, a Belgian court ruled that it should be returned to the family. The Covid-19 pandemic delayed the process but last week, it was handed over in Brussels.
On Thursday, hundreds gathered in a vast square for the occasion, waving flags and looking upon a large photo of Lumumba as his remains were laid down his final resting place.