Belgium’s return of Lumumba’s remains

YESTERDAY, Thursday 30,  June 2022, was a solemn day in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa and the Black World.

It was a day that the “remains” of the first Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Patrice Emery Lumumba, was finally interred in his native country after its recent return from the custody of the country’s former colonial overlord, Belgium.

Inside a blue box brought back from Belgium was Lumumba’s golden tooth, the only article of his body that survived the demonic brutality meted out to the fearless freedom fighter.

Lumumba was 34 when he was killed by a firing squad on January 17, 1961 in Lubumbashi. The Belgian Commissioner of Police, Gerard Soete, had issued the order.

Days after he was buried in a shallow grave, his body was exhumed, decapitated and dissolved in acid in a failed attempt to wipe him off the pages of history!

When the golden tooth was found, Soete said it was for him, “a kind of hunting trophy”.

What did he do to the Belgian rulers and their Western allies to deserve this amount of hatred?

Embittered by the brutality of Belgian colonial rule which led to the extermination of millions of his people, Lumumba was uncompromising in his stand for total independence.

In the atmosphere of the Cold War, the Congolese PM was perceived as inclining towards socialism, which threatened the economic interests of the West, especially America, in the Congo.

All it took for the decision to eliminate the outspoken Lumumba in the most heinous way possible was a speech he made condemning “the humiliating slavery that was imposed on us by force”.

This took place at a pubic function graced by many Belgian senior officials.

A Belgian academic, Ludo Witte, who wrote an account of Lumumba’s killing, noted that Lumumba’s speech was seen as a humiliation of the Belgian King and other senior government officials.

Some 61 years later on February 6, 2022, the Foreign Minister of Belgium, Louis Michel, formally apologised for the killing of Lumumba on behalf of the government. This was followed on June 8, 2022 by the visit of the Belgian King Phillipe, to the DRC where he also profusely apologised for the killings and human rights abuses during his grandfather’s tenure as the colonial overlord of the Congo.

The burial of Lumumba’s golden tooth was meant to bring a symbolic closure to that barbaric piece of history.

Belgium must do more. Lumumba’s family must continue its legal quest for reparatory justice with the full support of the DRC and the African Union. All looted artefacts must be returned.

Africa must rise above her inglorious colonial history and create a future that the likes of Lumumba had envisioned for the Black man. That way, his sacrifice will not be in vain.


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