Belgium has finally returned what is widely believed to be the tooth of Patrice Lumumba, the DR Congo‘s first democratically elected prime minister who was killed in a Western-backed overthrow from power.
Belgian authorities on Monday handed a blue box containing the tooth to members of Lumumba’s family at an official ceremony at Egmont Palace in the Belgian capital. The return of the Congolese leader’s tooth means his family can now have a “resting place where they can pray for their father,” lawyer Christophe Marchand, who represents two of Lumumba’s children, Francois and Roland, was quoted by NBC News.
The outlet reports that Lumumba’s tooth will return to the Democratic Republic of Congo where it will be taken to Lumumba’s home village before an official burial in the capital, Kinshasa.
Since January 17, 1961, no one has been held accountable for the brutal murder of Congo’s independence leader Lumumba, who was shot dead with two of his ministers, Joseph Okito and Maurice Mpolo. However, all fingers point to multinational perpetrators who sanctioned the elimination of one of Africa’s bravest politicians and independence heroes who stood his ground against colonizers.
Lumumba led the DR Congo to independence on June 30, 1960, after the country was passed on from King Leopold II, who took control of it as his private property in the 1880s, to Belgium in 1908 as a colony.
Lumumba transformed the country in just three months in office and he strongly advocated for a united Africa until his death by firing squad. His death was felt all over Africa and the world as he was filmed in captivity and manhandled by soldiers under the authority of his chief of staff Joseph-Desire Mobutu, who had taken over the country after a coup d’etat.
The United States, United Nations and former colony Belgium were complicit in his murder as they looked on while he was tortured despite letters he wrote for protection during the Congo Crisis, which was stirred up by the Belgian government.
More than three decades after his death, a senior Belgian policeman, Gerard Soete, disclosed that he and another helper had exhumed the corpses of Lumumba, Okito and Mpolo and “hacked them in pieces and put them into the acid.”
However, in a documentary aired the same year on the German TV channel ARD, Soete showed two teeth that he said had belonged to Lumumba. Recently, Soete’s daughter also showed a gold tooth, which she said had belonged to Lumumba, during an interview with a newspaper.
In July 2020, Juliana Amato Lumumba, a daughter of Lumumba, demanded the return of her father’s “relics”, in a letter to Belgium’s monarch, Philippe. According to AFP, the “relics” Juliana stated in the letter are her father’s teeth which were removed from his body following his assassination in 1961.
Two months after her letter, Belgium’s federal prosecutor’s office announced that Lumumba’s family will receive a tooth, admitting that there is no way it can absolutely ascertain if the tooth is Lumumba’s “since there could be no DNA test”.
“If such a test had been done it would have destroyed the tooth itself,” a spokesperson in the prosecutor’s office said.