Patrice Lumumba’s Daughter Demands Belgium Return her Father’s Teeth

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[Patrice Lumumba\Juliana Lumumba]
Jacobin: "Soete had kept two of Lumumba’s teeth, which he pretended to have thrown away; upon his own death, he passed on this macabre 'family heirloom' to his own daughter."
Photo: YouTube

Juliana Lumumba, daughter of Patrice Lumumba, is still awaiting a response from Belgian officials to return the remains of her assassinated father.

Patrice Lumumba was the first prime minister of Congo (now Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC), which he led to independence from Belgian colonial rule in June 1960. After a century of terror and exploitation in which the Belgian occupier had murdered millions of his compatriots, Lumumba defiantly stood up for the freedom and dignity of Africans.

Even as the Belgian state formally renounced direct political rule, it doggedly defended the dominance of European mining interests and its ties with other, white-minority-ruled African states. Even in its first weeks, Lumumba’s left-nationalist government faced a massive destabilization campaign, as a Belgian-backed secessionist movement launched an armed revolt in Katanga.

Lumumba would ultimately be assassinated by the secessionists on January 17, 1961, after an “anti-communist” military coup. He had been turned over to the secessionists by Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, a figure backed by both Belgium and the United States, who would rule Congo as a murderous military dictator from 1965 to 1997.

At the time of Lumumba’s murder, it was said that he had disappeared — and his body was never recovered. Yet at least some of his remains do still exist. As Belgian Workers’ Party newspaper Solidaire explains, in 2001, amid a parliamentary inquiry into the Belgian state’s role in the assassination, policeman Gérard Soete — chief inspector in secessionist Katanga — admitted to the press that after the killing he had cut Lumumba’s corpse into pieces, before dissolving it in sulfuric acid.

However, Soete had kept two of Lumumba’s teeth, which he pretended to have thrown away; upon his own death, he passed on this macabre “family heirloom” to his own daughter. In 2016, Ludo De Witte, author of a book on Lumumba’s murder, sued the daughter, who had confirmed in a newspaper interview that she had kept hold of the teeth; the remains were then confiscated and moved to Brussels’s Palace of Justice.

Four years on, Lumumba’s teeth are still in the possession of the Belgian state. On June 30, 2020, on the sixtieth anniversary of Congolese independence, Lumumba’s daughter Juliana wrote an open letter to the king of Belgium demanding that his remains finally be returned to his homeland.

Read the rest of this Jacobin story here:

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