Belgium has returned deceased Congolense hero Patrice Lumumba’s gold tooth to his family decades after he was assassinated, and his body was dissolved with acid.
A Belgian official gave Lumumba’s relatives a blue box containing his gold tooth following a private ceremony at Egmont Palace in central Brussels on June 20.
Belgian officials seized the tooth from the daughter of the Belgian commissioner, who said he took it after supervising the burning of the Congolese hero’s body. A firing squad had previously assassinated Lumumba in 1961, and his body was dismembered and dissolved with acid in alleged efforts to prevent a grave from becoming a worship site. He became the Democratic Republic of Congo’s first democratically elected prime minister after the nation gained independence from Belgium in 1960.
“It isn’t normal that Belgians held on to the remains of one of the founding fathers of the Congolese nation for six decades,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said in a speech about the slain hero’s remains.
Croo and Congolese officials are reportedly scheduled to meet with Lumumba’s family.
The return of the late politician’s relic arrived after Belgium’s King Phillippe expressed his “deepest regrets” for how the European nation treated Congo, its former colony. During a recent trip to the African country, Phillippe gave a speech about its brutal past under colonial rule, but he didn’t quite apologize.
“Even though many Belgians invested themselves sincerely, loving Congo and its people deeply, the colonial regime itself was based on exploitation and domination,” he reportedly said during a joint parliament meeting in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa. “This regime was one of unequal relations, unjustifiable in itself, marked by paternalism, discrimination and racism…It led to violent acts and [humiliation]. On the occasion of my first trip to Congo, right here, in front of the Congolese people and those who still suffer today, I wish to reaffirm my deepest regrets for those wounds of the past.”
In 2020, Philippe became the first Belgian official to vocalize regret for colonization. However, many Congolese people feel that his sentiments simply weren’t enough, as a formal apology to the nation, they said, is well overdue.