The Only Remain of Lumumba Finally Returned, 61 years after His Assassination

Patrice_Lumumba_official_portrait
Patrice Lumumba

In 2020, Patrice Lumumba’s Children asked the Belgian King Philip for their Father’s Remains in an open letter. Today, Lumumba‘s golden tooth has been returned to his family and country 61 years after his assassination. For the history, Patrice Lumumba was the prime minister of Congo in 1960, and was assassinated by a coalition led by Belgium, and the US in 1961. At the time of his assassination, it was decided that no trace would be left of his body; thus Belgian officer Gerard Soete and his team dug up and, with a saw dismembered the corpse of Lumumba and his comrades Joseph Okito and Maurice Mpolo, and dissolved them in sulfuric acid while the bones were ground and scattered. We know this from a documentary which aired in 2000 where Soete showed two teeth which he said had belonged to Lumumba. He had taken Lumumba’s teeth as souvenir.  In 2016, Ludo De Witte, author of the book “The assassination of Lumumba,” lodged a legal complaint against Soete’s daughter after she showed a gold tooth, which she said had belonged to Lumumba, during an interview with a newspaper. De Witte’s work has been essential in shattering the official Belgian government silence regarding the assassination of Lumumba.

I cannot imagine what Lumumba’s children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren and all children of mother Congo must feel… it is so painful! It is like the beginning of some closure for the family. Is what was done to Lumumba not considered a crime against humanity? Is returning Lumumba’s tooth supposed to be enough?

Below are some excerpts from the BBC article, “Patrice Lumumba: Why Belgium is returning a Congolese hero’s golden tooth.”

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DRC_Lumumba_Children_tooth returned 20220620
Lumumba’s Children during the return of his tooth in Belgium (Source: TheBusinessExecutive.net)

A gold-crowned tooth is all that remains of assassinated Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba.

Shot dead by a firing squad in 1961 with the tacit backing of former colonial power Belgium, his body was then buried in a shallow grave, dug up, transported 200 km (125 miles), interred again, exhumed and then hacked to pieces and finally dissolved in acid.

The Belgian police commissioner, Gerard Soete, who oversaw and participated in the destruction of the remains took the tooth, he later admitted.

He also talked about a second tooth and two of the corpse’s fingers, but these have not been found.

The tooth has now been returned to the family at a ceremony in Brussels.

Soete’s impulse to pocket the body parts echoed the behaviour of European colonial officials down the decades who took remains back home as macabre mementoes.

For Lumumba’s daughter, Juliana, the question is whether the perpetrators were human. What amount of hatred must you have to do that?” she asks.

This is a reminder of what happened with the Nazis, taking pieces of people – and that’s a crime against humanity,” she told the BBC.

Nevertheless, there seemed to be a personal element to the way Lumumba was vilified and pursued. The total destruction of the body, as well as a way to get rid of the evidence, seems like an effort to obliterate Lumumba from the memory. There would be no memorial, making it almost possible to deny that he existed at all. It was not enough just to bury him.

But he is still remembered.

[Juliana Lumumba] recognises that her father “belongs to the country, because he died for Congo… and for his own values and convictions of the dignity of the African person.

She acknowledges that the handing over of the tooth in Belgium and bringing it back to the Democratic Republic of Congo is symbolic “because what remains is not really enough. But he has to come back to his country where his blood was shed.”

The tooth will be taken around the vast country before being buried in the capital.

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King Philippe of Belgium’s Visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

DRC_King Philippe and Queen Matilde visit in Kinshasa
King Philippe and Queen Matilde visit in Kinshasa (DRC) last week (Source: BBC)

Last week marked King Philippe of Belgium’s first visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since his ascension to the throne. He visited with his wife, Queen Matilde. This visit comes two years after the king expressed regret for the monarchy’s colonial record in the DRC [Belgian King Expresses ‘Deepest Regrets’ for Colonial Past in Congo]. Recall that  King Leopold II of Belgium perpetrated a genocide in Congo,  ruling DRC like his personal property and committing some unspeakable atrocities, executing and maiming over 15 million Congolese during that time, in pursuit of the money that rubber (and other things) could bring.

DRC_King Philippe - Mask
Suku mask known as Kakuungu returned by King Philippe to the DRC during his visit (Source: AFP/BBC)

Some ‘visible’ highlights of King Philippe’s visit last week were: 1) The Belgian king returned a giant mask known as Kakuungu used during healing ceremonies by the Suku people from the southwest region of the DRC; the king said the object was on “indefinite loan” to the DRC… The monarch said, “I wanted, during our visit at the National Museum and in your presence, to return to you this exceptional work in order to allow Congolese to discover and admire it. …It marks the symbolic beginning of the reinforcement of the cultural collaboration between Belgium and Congo.” 2) King Philippe acknowledged the last surviving Congolese World War II veteran soldier, 97 year-old Corporal Albert Kunyuku, who served for Belgium; at a memorial of former fighters a wreath was laid, and King Phillipe presented Corporal Kunyuku with a medal. 3) King Philippe lamented the racial colonial past; the monarch said, “On the occasion of my first trip to Congo, here, in front of the Congolese people and those who still suffer from it today, I wish to reaffirm my deepest regrets for these wounds of the past.”

Map of the Democratic Republic of Congo
Map of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Honestly, this is so pathetic! First can we all stop and imagine how much this 1-week visit of the Belgian Sovereign must have cost  the people of the DRC? How much were taken from the country’s coffers to accommodate the King and Queen of Belgium? How many hospitals/schools/roads will not be built because of his majesty’s visit? Then the king comes and gives one mask! One mask! Seriously? One? Of all the masks that fill up the Royal Museum of Central Africa as an example, only one? Why that one in particular? Then the mask is given as an “indefinite loan”, the height of disdain! Then, he acknowledges the last surviving soldier to have given his blood and sweat to Belgium… Although we are happy for Corporal Kunyuku, how convenient for the Belgians to wait for all of those they needed to pay pensions to die to have a ceremony with only one survivor left? … What about the families of others who served, did they get recognition from the King, medals, pensions?

Patrice_Lumumba_official_portrait
Patrice Lumumba

Oh how I wish Patrice Lumumba was alive… he would have told the king to shove it! And actually we should all be telling his majesty just that! Keep your fake visit! Instead, tell us the true reasons of your visit: the needs for Belgium to reinforce economic partnership (get free deals from the old colony) amidst the Ukraine/Russia war; isn’t it easier to come sign and make sure all the diamonds, cobalt, and other minerals continue to flow to Belgium (let’s not forget the other European nations and the US) … Will we really want the mighty Belgium to starve without energy from Ukraine/Russia? And more importantly make sure that the DRC, the reservoir of minerals used in all electronics in the world, does not start a friendship with Russia and much more… O poor Africa, you that the King of Belgium visits with one of your masks in hand and expresses regrets without actions… O poor Congo, after getting maimed, and dying on the frontline for Belgium, you get one little medal… the metal of which is not even as pure as what comes out of your own soil!

How long shall they kill our prophets…?

Bob Marley
Bob Marley

How long shall they kill our prophets…?” as Bob Marley said, “… while we stand aside and look?”Sir Bob Marley said it all: How long shall we let these conquerors beat us down? bombard us? kill our prophets? What were Lumumba, Sankara, Cabral, Um Nyobé, Ouandié, Khadafi, Ben Barka, or Gbagbo’s sins? To love their country: to want to save their countries from western greed. What were we doing when they were all killed? Why on earth are we, Africans, just looking (and sometimes applauding) while some countries, Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, and now Mali are being bombed? Why and how long are we going to look while our prophets are being killed?

Le partage de l'Afrique a la Conference de Berlin de 1884
Le partage de l’Afrique a la Conference de Berlin de 1884

I just heard of Charles Blé Goudé being arrested. My heart is broken as I hear some Africans applaud… yes my heart is shattered when I hear people say “oh he deserved it.” Deserved what? Deserve being beaten to death because he stood up for his country while external forces were invading it? Deserve being humiliated because he dared walk out in the streets of Abidjan bare-handed to fight external forces, because he brought the youth together, because he woke Ivorians and Africans to their rights to respect, independence, and fairness? Yes… as Sir Marley said: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery [slavery of the mind; slavery mentality: ignorant mentality]”… “Have no fear for atomic energy.” Some African head of states said when Côte d’Ivoire and Libya were being bombed ” It is better not to say anything; we will just agree with these westerners otherwise they will bomb us too!” now peaceful Mali is under attack; peaceful and desertic Mali is being bombed. Which other peaceful African country will be next? It is better to rise, save our prophets, and talk… than to drink the milk of cowardice, fear, treachery, and ignorance. Have no fear for atomic energy, just stand against injustice… that is way better than treachery or the cancer of betrayal as Amilcar Cabral called it.  Enjoy Sir Marley, and remember that the milk of cowardice never saved our ancestors, and will never save us; our ancestors thought that they were sparing themselves from harm, but 50, 100, 500 years later their children are still fighting the battles they should have fought in the first place.  History repeats itself… are we still going to stand aside while our prophets are being killed? are we going to fear atomic energy, and run as cowards? No matter how far we run, or how much we hide, they are coming for us… we might have seeming peace for 20 years, but our children will still have to fight our battles!