Remains of independence hero Patrice Lumumba returned to Congo

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The remains of the first post-independence Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba arrived Wednesday in the Democratic Republic Congo, more than six decades after his assassination. The remains will go on tour around the country, before being laid to rest in the capital, Kinshasa, next week.

A plane transporting a coffin containing the last remains - a gold-crowned tooth - landed in Kinshasa on Wednesday, in transit to the central province of Sankuru, where Lumumba was born, in the village of Onalua, in 1925

It is the start of a nine-day trip around the country, with stops in sites symbolically important to Lumumba's life. The remains will be laid to rest in a mausoleum in Kinshasa on 30 June, the country’s independence day, following three days of national mourning.

The village of Onalua, which since 2013 has been part of a commune renamed Lumumbaville, in honour of the independence hero, prepared to welcome the remains, by clearing out the roads and laying down palm leaves, a symbol of mourning or celebration.

In the village square, where the coffin was expected to arrive, was set up a podium decorated yellow, blue and red, and banners printed with Lumumba's face.

His remains were officially returned on Monday at a ceremony in Brussels, where a box containing the tooth was placed in a coffin, which was handed over to Congolese authorities in the presence of Lumumba's family.

Lumumba was assassinated in 1961, just six months after Congo declared independence from Belgium. He is remembered for a fiery speech against racism and colonialism, which he gave on 30 June 1960.

He was overthrown that September, and was executed by Belgian mercenaries and separatists from the southern region of Katanga, on 17 January 1961.

His body was dissolved in acid and never recovered, and decades passed before Belgium discovered the existence of the tooth, held by a Belgian police officer who took part in Lumumba's death, who boasted about his actions in the media.

Belgian authorities seized the tooth in 2016.

On Monday, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo apologised again for his country's "moral responsibility" in Lumumba's death.

Two weeks before, Belgium's King Philippe, on his first trip to the DRC reiterated his "deepest regrets for the wounds" of Belgian colonial rule.

(with AFP)

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