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Belgium returns slain African revolutionary’s tooth to descendants — Analysis

Brussels has returned Congolese independence crusader Patrice Lumumba’s gold-capped tooth to his children

Belgium, in recognition of the brutal murder of Patrice Lumumba (Congolese independence pioneer), handed over Patrice’s gold-capped tooth Monday in Brussels.

Laid to rest in a light blue case, the tooth was handed to a group of family members at Brussels’ Egmont Palace and placed in a casket to be taken to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s embassy pending repatriation. The gesture was praised by the slain leader’s son Roland Lumumba, who said it would allow the family to “Finish their grief.” 

Lumumba, the Republic of Congo’s first elected prime minister after its declaration of independence in June 1960 from Brussels, was elected democratically. He was assassinated by Belgian mercenaries with Congolese allies in 1961. They were suspected to have been acting under orders from the US and UK intelligence. 

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo acknowledged his country’s “Moral responsibility” for Lumumba’s grisly demise, noting “A man was killed for his political beliefs, his words and his ideals,” a “The painful, and often unpleasant truth [that]Must be said.”

Belgium kept the remains of one the founder fathers of Congolese nation six decades ago, which is unusual.,” he said. 

A Belgian judge in September 2020 ruled the tooth must be returned to Lumumba’s family in the Democratic Republic of Congo some 60 years after the Belgian government, the CIA and MI6 conspired to have him murdered. The judgment came just a few months after Lumumba’s daughter called for Brussels to return his “Relics” to “His ancestors’ land.

Belgian police commissioner Gerard Soete confessed in 2000 to dismembering Lumumba’s body and dissolving it in acid. In a documentary produced that year, he showed off two teeth that supposedly belonged to the beloved leader, saying he had taken them as “One type of hunting trophy.” 

One of those teeth was seized in 2016 by Belgian officials from Soete’s daughter, and while it reportedly could not be DNA tested without being destroyed, it is believed to be Lumumba’s.

Belgian colonial rule in Africa was especially brutal, with over 10 million people dying from forced labor, starvation, and disease during the 23 years King Leopold II owned the Congo. The current monarch, King Philippe, expressed his “Deepest sorrows” for the violence Belgium inflicted on its people in his first official visit to the country earlier this month, denouncing his nation’s “unjustifiable” reign over the African colony as one “Paternalism and discrimination, as well as racism are all hallmarks”.

Even with these consciliatory gestures the DRC is still a hotbed for neocolonial conflicts, as Western countries fight over its vast wealth of minerals such as coltan and cobalt. The industry relies on child labor and highly unsafe practices in order to extract the resources critical to building out the world’s digital infrastructure. It is still one of the most impoverished countries on the planet, despite its rich mineral resources. This country has political instability, which allows for easy extraction of these riches by Western companies. 

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