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DR Congo has scheduled the final ceremony for Lumumba remains

#Congo #scheduled #final #ceremony #Lumumba #remains

The scant remains of Patrice Lumumba, DRC’s fiery independence hero, were due to be buried on Thursday after a pilgrimage that evoked traumatic memories but also bolstered national unity.

A single tooth is all that remains of the young nationalist, who was assassinated in January 1961 at the age of 35, just months after becoming Congo’s first post-colonial prime minister.

A coffin containing the remains was to be interred in a mausoleum in Kinshasa in a ceremony hosted by President Felix Tshisekedi to mark the country’s 62nd anniversary.

The mausoleum, topped by a large statue of Lumumba, is located on a main street in the capital that also bears his name.

Lumumba was among the vanguard of pan-African leaders who led the charge to end colonialism in the late 1950s.

He rose to prominence in 1958 when he founded a political party, the Congolese National Movement (MNC), which called for independence and a secular Congolese state.

His party won the national elections in May 1960, a month before independence from Belgium, resulting in his being appointed the country’s first prime minister when it became independent.

He stunned Belgium with an Independence Day speech – attended by King Baudouin – that accused the outgoing colonial rulers of racism and the “humiliating slavery” of the Congolese people.

Within three months, Lumumba was driven out in a coup orchestrated with the help of Belgium and the CIA, who also resisted the support he had solicited from the Soviet Union.

In January 1961, Lumumba was handed over to authorities in the mineral-rich southeastern province of Katanga, which months earlier had seceded from the fledgling nation with Belgian support.

He was shot and his body dissolved in acid, but a Belgian police officer involved in the murder kept one of his teeth as a trophy.

After years of campaigning by his family, Belgium returned the tooth on June 20, a move that followed a reconciliation visit from Baudouin’s nephew and successor, King Philippe.

The remains were taken to Lumumba’s home territory of Sankuru in the center of the country, to his political stronghold of Kisangani in the northeast, and finally to the site of his assassination before being flown to Kinshasa.

Five former prime ministers attended a memorial service alongside current Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde on Thursday.

“The character of Patrice Lumumba is a major symbol of national unity that transcends political differences,” said Evariste Mabi, a premier in the 1980s under Lumumba’s nemesis, dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

“(He) embodies the people’s successful struggle for freedom.”

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