Belgium will not return the much-discussed tooth of murdered ex-Prime Minister Patrice Emery Lumumba to the Democratic Republic of Congo until June. The planned ceremony of January 17 has been postponed, partly due to the corona pandemic, according to the Congolese presidency.
Lumumba was murdered on Congolese soil in January 1961 by Katangese separatists in the presence of some Belgians. The Belgian gendarmerie Gerard Soete, who was ordered a few days later to exhume and destroy the body, pulled two teeth from Lumumba’s body and took them with him as a souvenir.
Two years ago, Juliana Lumumba, the daughter of the murdered prime minister, wrote an emotional letter to King Philippe. She asked for her father’s tooth to be returned.
It was eventually decided that Belgium would hand over a tooth on June 21, 2021, but due to the corona pandemic, that ceremony was postponed to January 17, 2022, the 61st anniversary of Lumumba’s death.
“The ceremony of restitution and repatriation of the remains of former Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba has been postponed to June,” said an adviser to President Felix Tshisekedi. The exact date is not yet known, but it is believed to be around June 30, when the DRC will celebrate its independence.
“Various reasons justify this postponement,” it continued. “But the main reason is the restrictions in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.”