The remains of Congolese independence leader Lumumba have returned home

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The coffin of slain Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba returned home on Wednesday for an emotional visitation and burial, more than six decades after his assassination.

A plane has transported Lumumba’s mortal remains – a tooth that Belgium’s ex-colonial power handed over to his family on Monday – from Brussels to Kinshasa for a nine-day trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The coffin and an accompanying delegation then flew to the central province of Sankuru, where the country’s first post-independence leader was born in the village of Onalua in 1925.

“Mr Prime Minister”, the police and the armed forces of the DRC “are lined up to pay their respects to you on your return to your native village”, solemnly declared a policeman standing at attention, in front of the coffin at his arrival. the airfield in the town of Tshumbe.

From there he was taken 25 kilometers (15 miles) to Onalua, where two days of tributes are planned.

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Transported by an army vehicle covered with a Congolese flag, the coffin arrived in the village square to the sound of tam-tam drums.

A podium in the national colors of yellow, blue and red, tents and banners bearing Lumumba’s face had been erected.

The remains will visit sites symbolically important to Lumumba’s life and will be interred in a mausoleum in the capital Kinshasa on June 30, after three days of national mourning.

“His spirit, which was imprisoned in Belgium, is coming back here,” said Onalua Maurice Tasombo Omatuku, a traditional leader and nephew of Lumumba.

Finally able to mourn his uncle but knowing he was murdered in 1961, Omatuku said he felt emotionally torn apart.

“The Son Returns”

Since 2013, Onalua has been part of a commune named Lumumbaville in honor of the anti-colonial leader.

Before his favorite son arrived home on Tuesday, a local resident pointed to a large, unfinished concrete house falling into disrepair, with much of its roof missing.

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“This is the family plot where Lumumba was born,” he said.

Catherine Mbutshu said she felt joy that Lumumba’s “relic” was finally returning to the land of her ancestors.

“I’m old, my legs hurt, but I’m happy because the son is coming back,” said the woman who reportedly knew Lumumba.

“I spoke with him before he left for Kisangani”, his political stronghold in northeastern Congo, she said.

Lumumba earned his place in history as an anti-colonial icon when the DRC declared independence from Belgium on June 30, 1960, delivering a fiery speech against settler racism.

He was overthrown in September before separatists from the southern Katanga region and Belgian mercenaries executed him and two close supporters, Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okito, on January 17, 1961.

“Worthy Burial”

Lumumba’s body was dissolved in acid and never recovered.

Decades passed before human remains were discovered in Belgium, after a Belgian policeman who took part in Lumumba’s death bragged about his actions to the media. Belgian authorities seized the officer’s tooth in 2016.

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In a solemn ceremony in Brussels on Monday, a coffin containing the tooth was placed in a coffin that Belgium handed over to Congolese authorities in the presence of Lumumba’s family.

“Father, we mourned your passing without performing the funeral prayer…our duty as descendants was to provide a dignified burial,” his daughter Juliana said.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has again apologized for his country’s “moral responsibility” in Lumumba’s death.

Two weeks earlier, the King of Belgium Philippe, during his first trip to the DRC, had reiterated his “deepest regrets for the wounds” inflicted by Belgian colonial rule.

Historians say millions of people were killed, maimed or died of disease while forced to collect rubber under Belgian rule.

The land was also plundered for its mineral wealth, timber and ivory.

(TSWT)

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