KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — The remains of Congo’s independence leader Patrice Lumumba arrived in the capital, Kinshasa, from Belgium Wednesday and will be taken around the country, a government official said.
After leading the struggle for Congo’s independence from colonial power Belgium, Lumumba became the country’s first prime minister before being assassinated six months later in 1961.
Immediately after his killing, Lumumba’s body was dismembered and dissolved with acid in an apparent effort to keep any grave from becoming a pilgrimage site. A gold-capped tooth was all that remained and was kept by the Belgian police commissioner who oversaw the destruction of Lumumba’s body. In 2016 the tooth was seized by Belgian officials from the police commissioner’s daughter.
A coffin containing Lumumba’s tooth was taken Wednesday from Kinshasa to Lumumba’s birthplace in Onalua village in Sankuru province. From there it will be taken around the country.
The restitution of the relic took place after Belgium’s King Philippe expressed regrets earlier this month for his nation’s abuses in Congo when it was a colony.
Lumumba was a patriot and Congolese people wanted to honor his memory by paying their respects to his remains, member of parliament Lambert Mende told The Associated Press.
“I welcome the return of the relic of the Congolese prime minister,” Mende said.