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First Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba laid to rest in Kinshasa

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The remains of Congo’s independence hero and first Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba will be laid to rest in Kinshasa on Thursday, June 30, 2022. People have been able to pay their respects ahead of the funeral that took place in the capital city, on a road named in his honor.

Lumumba’s family and other dignitaries were at the private service which took place before the coffin was transferred to a specially built mausoleum

The ceremony is being held on Congo’s Independence Day holiday marking the day in 1960 when the country became independent from Belgium. Lumumba is widely hailed as the nationalist activist who helped to end colonial rule. He became the country’s first prime minister and was assassinated within a year in 1961.

A single tooth is all that remains of the young scholar and nationalist politician whose life and career were cut short in a dark struggle for leadership and control of resources in Zaire.

Belgium returned them to Congo earlier this month. A casket holding the tooth was taken around the country to allow citizens to pay their respects, including at his birthplace in Onalua village in Sankuru province.

For many in Congo, Lumumba is a symbol of the positive developments the country could have achieved after its independence. Instead, it became mired in decades of dictatorship that drained its vast mineral riches.

Patrice Lumumba is best known for becoming the first prime minister of the newly independent Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1960, for being forced out of office after less than three months, and for being assassinated the following year.

Lumumba: Congolese anti-colonial icon who angered Belgian king

In the presence of Belgium’s King Baudouin, the 34-year-old prime minister accused the former colonial masters of racist maltreatment and forcing “humiliating slavery” on the Congolese people, making him an instant hero of African independence movements.

In 1956 Lumumba was invited with others on a study tour of Belgium under the auspices of the minister of colonies. On his return he was arrested on a charge of embezzlement from the post office. He was convicted and condemned one year later, after various reductions of sentence, to 12 months’ imprisonment and a fine.

When Lumumba got out of prison, he grew even more active in politics. In October 1958 he, along with other Congolese leaders, launched the Congolese National Movement (Mouvement National Congolais; MNC), the first nationwide Congolese Political party.

As nationalist fervour increased, the Belgian government announced a program intended to lead to independence for the Congo, starting with local elections in December 1959.

The nationalists regarded this program as a scheme to install puppets before independence and announced a boycott of the elections. The Belgian authorities responded with repression. On October 30 there was a clash in Stanleyville that resulted in 30 deaths. Lumumba was imprisoned on a charge of inciting to riot.

The MNC decided to shift tactics, entered the elections, and won a sweeping victory in Stanleyville (90 percent of the votes).

On January 17, 1961, Lumumba and two associates, Joseph Okito and Maurice Mpolo, were flown to Elisabethville (now Lubumbashi), where they were delivered to the secessionist regime in Katanga and its Belgian advisors. On the flight there, they had been beaten by the soldiers escorting them, and, once they landed in Katanga, they were beaten again. Later that day, Lumumba, Okito, and Mpolo were executed by a firing squad under Belgian command.

Although their bodies were initially thrown into shallow graves, they were later dug up under the direction of Belgian officers, hacked into pieces, and dissolved in acid or burned by fire.

The Katangan government withheld official announcement of his death until February 13 and then claimed that Lumumba had escaped from their custody and had been discovered by villagers, who killed him. Rumours of Lumumba’s death had circulated soon after it occurred, however. The government’s explanation of his death was quickly disputed, although it would take decades for the full circumstances surrounding his death to be made public.

Patrice Lumumba does not have a grave. After he was assassinated, Belgian officers hacked his body into pieces, which were then dissolved in sulphuric acid or burned.

The police officer kept the tooth as a trophy. Belgian authorities in 2016 seized the relic from his daughter.

Belgium finally returned it on Monday to Lumumba’s family members during a ceremony in Brussels.

It was then placed inside a coffin for the funeral tour, 61 years late.

His death caused a scandal throughout Africa and beyond; retrospectively, even his enemies proclaimed him a “national hero.”

The coffin of slain Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba returned to his home on Wednesday for an emotionally charged tour and burial, more than six decades after his assassination. In Kinshasa on June 30, 2022, the first Congolese Prime Mister will be laid to rest on Thursday morning at 8:52.

“Mr first prime minister,” the DRC’s police and armed forces “are lined up to pay their respects to you on your return to your native village”, a police officer standing to attention solemnly said, in front of the coffin as it arrived at the aerodrome in the town of Tshumbe.

“Welcome back home and rest in peace African independence hero and first Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Emery Lumumba”!


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