61 years after his assassination, Patrice Lumumba returns home

61 years after his assassination, Patrice Lumumba returns home

A tooth, the only remains of the remains of the hero of independence, will make the trip to the Congo, where a burial ceremony is to take place.

More than 61 years after his assassination, the coffin of Patrice Lumumba is brought back to his native land on Wednesday June 22, two days after Belgium returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) a tooth, the only remains of the remains. of the hero of independence.

The plane carrying from Brussels the remains of the Prime Minister of the former Belgian Congo is expected in the early morning in Kinshasa for a technical stopover. After a change of aircraft, the coffin and the accompanying delegation must fly to the province of Sankuru (center), where Lumumba was born in 1925, in the village of Onalua. This will be the start of a nine-day journey through the country, which will stop at emblematic sites in the life of Patrice Lumumba and will end on June 30 in the capital where, after a three-day national mourning, a mausoleum will host a burial ceremony.

“His spirit, which was imprisoned in Belgium, returns here”consoled himself in Onalua Maurice Tasombo Omatuku, traditional chief and nephew of Lumumba, torn between the joy of finally being able “mourn” of his uncle and the “sadness” to know that he had “actually was murdered”. The village, which has been part of a “tribute” town called Lumumbaville since 2013, was actively preparing on Tuesday to welcome “the rest” of the child of the country. Under a scorching sun, men clear the thick layer of sand covering the road that connects Onalua to the neighboring town of Tshumbe. The grass and tree branches are cleared under the supervision of the police, while palm leaves, a symbol of mourning or celebration, are installed on the side of the road, alongside Congolese flags.

A modest podium in the colors of the DRC (yellow-blue-red), tents, large posters bearing the image of Lumumba, are erected on the village square which will accommodate the coffin. Women and men, some in traditional dress, greet newcomers to the sound of drums and Tetela dances, the Lumumba ethnic group. “There is the family plot where Lumumba was born”, indicates a resident a few meters away, pointing to a large concrete house, unfinished, dilapidated, much of the roof blown away. A little further on, Catherine Mbutshu, advanced in age, expresses her joy at the idea that the “relic” of Patrice Lumumba is brought back to the land of his ancestors. “I’m old, my legs hurt, but I’m happy because the son is coming back”declares this woman presented as having rubbed shoulders with Lumumba during her lifetime. “I spoke with him before he left for Kisangani”her political stronghold, in the Northeast, she assures.

Patrice Emery Lumumba entered into legend on the day of the proclamation of the independence of the Congo, June 30, 1960, with a speech with very strong words against the racism of the colonists. The following September, he was overthrown, then executed on January 17, 1961 with two brothers in arms, Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okito, by separatists from the Katanga region (south), with the support of Belgian mercenaries. His body, dissolved in acid, was never found. It took decades to discover that human remains had been kept in Belgium, when a Belgian police officer involved in the disappearance bragged about it in the media. A tooth that this policeman had in his possession was seized in 2016 by Belgian justice.

Contained in a box, it was placed in a coffin handed over to the Congolese authorities on Monday in Brussels in the presence of the family of the assassinated leader, during an emotional ceremony. “Father, we mourned your disappearance without having made a funeral oration (…) our duty as a descendant was to offer (you) a dignified burial”, said his daughter Juliana. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo for his part renewed the “apology” of the Brussels government for its “moral responsibility” in the disappearance of Patrice Lumumba. Two weeks ago, it was King Philippe of Belgium, visiting the DRC for the first time, who reiterated in Kinshasa his “deepest regrets for injuries” inflicted during colonization.