Nearly 60 years after his assassination in January 1961, a court in Belgium ruled on Thursday to give back a tooth- the only remains of Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba which his relatives have been lobbying for years to realise this deeply symbolic gesture to the Congolese people.
Ben Mangangi, a Congolese student feels inspired by the news, “Lumumba is a symbol of hope for us Congolese youth. He represents so much. He was a patriot who gave up his life for the development of the nation. He’s an example of patriotism for everyone in our generation, to devote our lives to the nation after we finish our studies.”
A deeply symbolic gesture to eternalise Lumumba the Congo’s first prime minister at just 34 years old as an independent nation after advocating for an end to colonial rule.
A military coup d’état fueled by alleged complicity from coloniser Belgium and the United States ended his short-lived regime and in turn dampened the country’s hopes as the rise of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, rose to power.
The authoritarian later renamed the country Zaire until his death in 1997 and his regime was characterised by the plundering of the state and its vast mineral riches.
A Belgian parliamentary probe did determine that the government was “morally responsible” for Lumumba’s death, while a 1975 US Senate committee uncovered a failed CIA plan to assassinate the revered Congolese prime minister.
The tooth — the only physical remains of the hero as his body had been dismembered and dissolved with acid, in an apparent attempt to keep any grave from becoming a pilgrimage site, is certain to have belonged to Lumumba because of where it had been retrieved, according to Belgian officials.