President Félix Tshisekedi pays tribute to the political leader hired killer on a site in Kinshasa where a memorial is to be installed.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) honored independence hero Patrice Lumumba, marking the 60th anniversary of his assassination in a plot linked to the nascent country’s colonial master, Belgium.
President Félix Tshisekedi paid tribute to the charismatic political leader on Sunday at a site in the capital, Kinshasa, where a memorial is to be installed in his honor.
Lumumba became the country’s first democratically elected prime minister after independence from Belgium in 1960. His government lasted only three months before being overthrown and assassinated by a firing squad.
However, Lumumba’s body will never be found. Shot dead by Katangese separatists and Belgian mercenaries on January 17, 1961, during the chaotic first months of independence, his body was dissolved in acid.
The only part of his body ever to be found was a tooth seized from a Belgian policeman who, on his own, took it while helping to dispose of the body.
Last month, Tshisekedi said Belgium would return the teeth to his family in time for the independence anniversary celebrations on June 30.
Juliana Lumumba, the daughter of the murdered leader, wrote to Belgian King Philippe last year, at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, asking for his return.
The eminent Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege, winner of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, also paid tribute to Lumumba, calling him “one of the greatest heroes in history”.
60 years ago #PatriceLumumba, one of the greatest heroes in history, has been assassinated. A man of determination who fought to the end for the freedom, the sovereignty of #RDC and to straighten the heads of our people. A model of courage for young people.
– Denis Mukwege (@DenisMukwege) January 17, 2021
Lumumba was a “man of determination who fought to the end for the freedom, the sovereignty of the #RDC,” he wrote on Twitter. “A model of courage for young people.”
Lumumba was removed from his post as prime minister shortly after independence, then handed over to Katanga separatists and mercenaries upon his death. His supporters and some historians accuse the CIA of ordering his assassination.
In 2001, a Belgian parliamentary commission recognized that the country was “morally responsible” for his death. In 2012, a Brussels court of appeal went further, calling his murder a war crime.
An investigation in Belgium for war crimes is in its final phase, according to lawyer Christophe Marchand, who filed a complaint in 2011 on behalf of François Lumumba, son of the murdered leader.
“It was the Belgians who planned the death of Lumumba and who carried it out,” said Congolese historian Guillaume Nkongolo, referring to the recently opened archives.