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Fighting for Lumumba’s Legacy

The daughter of Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba has called on Belgium to return her father’s “relics”, in an apparent reference to teeth taken from his body after his assassination in 1961. “We, Lumumba’s children, call for the just return of the relics of Patrice Emery Lumumba to the land of his ancestors,” his daughter, Juliana Amato Lumumba, wrote in a letter to Belgium’s monarch, Philippe. The letter is dated June 30 – the 60th anniversary of the independence of Belgium’s giant colony in central Africa. A charismatic pan-Africanist who played a key part in the fight for independence, Lumumba was appointed, at the age of only 34, as the first prime minister of the newly decolonised country. Lumumba was overthrown, then jailed, tortured and finally killed by a firing squad acting under the orders of secessionists. Forty years later, Belgium acknowledged that it bore “moral responsibility” for his death. In 2000, Belgian Police Commissioner Gerard Soete told AFP that he had chopped up Lumumba’s body and those of his companions, Joseph Okito and Maurice Mpolo, and then dissolved the remains in acid. But in a documentary screened the same year on the German TV channel ARD, Soete showed two teeth that he said had belonged to Lumumba.