(Belga) The authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have again postponed, until June, the ceremony for the restitution by Belgium of a “relic” of the country’s first Prime Minister, Patrice Emery Lumumba, said Wednesday the Congolese presidency.
Hero of the independence of the former Belgian Congo in June 1960, who became the first Prime Minister of the new country, the DRC, Patrice Lumumba was overthrown a few months later in a coup. He was executed on January 17, 1961 with two brothers in arms by separatists from the Katanga region, with the support of mercenaries from the former Belgian colonial power. Initially, Belgium was to officially deliver on June 21, 2021, to the President of the DRC Félix Tshisekedi, a tooth that a Belgian police commissioner claims to have taken from Lumumba’s body when he helped make it disappear. This restitution and a series of tributes planned thereafter had already been postponed, due to an “exponential” increase in Covid-19 cases, to January 17, 2022, the 61st anniversary of Lumumba’s death. “The ceremony for the restitution and repatriation of the remains of former Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba is postponed to next June, to a date around the festivities to celebrate the independence of the DRC, on June 30,” said Wednesday to the ‘AFP an adviser to President Tshisekedi. “Several reasons justify this postponement. But the main one relates to the restrictions within the framework of the fight against the spread of the Covid-19”, he added, promising “an official communication in the coming hours”. In 2000, the Belgian police commissioner Gérard Soete, told AFP that he had cut up and dissolved in acid the bodies of Lumumba and two of his followers, Joseph Okito and Maurice Mpolo, murdered at the same time as him. In a documentary broadcast on German channel ARD the same year, Mr. Soete claimed to have kept Lumumba’s teeth, and had shown them. In September 2020, the Belgian justice responded favorably to a request from the family of Patrice Lumumba to return a tooth attributed to the Congolese leader and seized from the family of Gérard Soete. In 2001, Belgium had recognized its “moral responsibility” in the death of Lumumba at the end of a parliamentary commission of inquiry. (Belga)