Belgium has officially returned what is popularly thought to be Patrice Lumumba’s tooth, the first democratically elected prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo who was murdered in a Western-backed coup.
At a formal ceremony at Egmont Palace in Brussels on Monday, Belgian authorities presented a blue box holding the tooth to members of Lumumba’s family. According to lawyer Christophe Marchand, who represents two of Lumumba’s children, Francois and Roland, the restoration of the Congolese leader’s tooth means his family now has a “resting place where they can pray for their father.”
Lumumba’s tooth will be returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it will be carried to Lumumba’s native village before being officially buried in Kinshasa, according to the outlet.
No one has been held responsible for the assassination of Congo’s independence leader Patrice Lumumba, who was shot together with two of his ministers, Joseph Okito and Maurice Mpolo, on January 17, 1961. All fingers, however, point to transnational culprits who approved the assassination of one of Africa’s most courageous politicians and freedom heroes who stood firm against colonialism.
Lumumba led the Democratic Republic of the Congo to independence on June 30, 1960, after the country was given to Belgium as a colony in 1908 by King Leopold II, who had taken control of it as his private property in the 1880s.
Lumumba revolutionized the country in barely three months in power, and he fought for a unified Africa until his execution by firing squad. As he was filmed in custody 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, his death was felt throughout Africa and the world.
Despite the letters he wrote for protection during the Congo Crisis, which was caused by the Belgian government, the United States, the United Nations, and his former colony Belgium were complicit in his execution by watching as he was tortured.
Gerard Soete, a senior Belgian police officer, revealed that he and another helper exhumed the bodies of Lumumba, Okito, and Mpolo and “hacked them in pieces and placed them into the acid” more than three decades after their deaths.
Soete, on the other hand, showed two teeth that he claimed belonged to Lumumba in a documentary aired the same year on the German TV channel ARD. During a recent interview with a journalist, Soete’s daughter also displayed a gold tooth that she said belonged to Lumumba.
In a letter to Belgium’s monarch, Philippe, Juliana Amato Lumumba, Lumumba’s daughter, asked for the return of her father’s “relics” in July 2020. The “relics” Juliana mentioned in the letter, according to AFP, are her father’s teeth, which were removed from his body after his assassination in 1961.
Two months after receiving her letter, Belgium’s federal prosecutor’s office said that Lumumba’s family will get a tooth, noting that there is no way of knowing for sure whether the tooth is Lumumba’s “since there could be no DNA test.”
“If such a test had been performed, the tooth would have been destroyed,” a prosecutor’s office representative stated.