Almost 58 years after the facts, the murder of the Congolese freedom fighter Patrice Lumumba and the Belgian involvement continue to raise many questions. His daughter Juliana threw some salt in the wound yesterday in the program ‘Children of the Colony’. How the murder of the first Congolese Prime Minister and the only remnants of his body continue to stir the mood.
On the third episode of the Canvas program was about the role of Belgium in Congolese independence. The murder of Patrice Lumumba (1925-1961) was also discussed. The makers of the program also spoke with Juliana, the daughter of Lumumba. “I am still waiting for an appropriate response. A murder without a murderer. A murder without a defendant. A murder without a body. But a Belgian does have a tooth of that body. We have the right to demand justice for what my father has done,” she said emotionally.
Author and Congo expert Ludo de Witte, who published a controversial book about the murder in 1999, said yesterday in the Radio 1 program ‘The world today’ that the tooth, the only vestige of the body of Lumumba, still in Belgium. How did that tooth end up in our country at the time, and why does the case still attract so many reactions?
Tortured and killed
The immensely popular Lumumba became the first prime minister of the independent Congo in 1960. But was sold off after a few months. Later he and his associates Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okito were jailed. And transferred to the mining province of Katanga, which had separated. There they were tortured in January 1961 and finally murdered. At his execution were also Belgians present who were employed by the Katangese regime.
They absolutely did not want a grave for Lumumba to come, for fear that it would become a place of pilgrimage, therefore his body had to disappear. Until today, the murder of Lumumba in Congo remains a controversial subject. He is still an icon throughout Africa.
In 1999, the Dutch state warden Gerard Soete (1920-2000) admitted in the TV program ‘Histories’ that he had destroyed the body. First it was sawn into pieces, and then the remains were dissolved in 200 litres of sulfuric acid. Soete told in the same broadcast that he had brought some teeth and finger pieces from Lumumba as a kind of hunting trophy. He showed on TV a bullet that had fallen from the body of Lumumba. In a documentary on the German television channel ARD in 2000 Soete even shows those teeth.
As a result of this high-profile episode of ‘Histories’, a parliamentary committee called Lumumba was established in 2000, which decided that the then government of Gaston Eyskens was morally responsible for his death. In 2002, Belgium, through the minister of foreign affairs Louis Michel, apologized for his role in the liquidation of Lumumba. However, a search for the remains of Lumumba does not come.
In a box
But that did not end the story. In 2010, a judicial investigation was initiated at the request of the Lumumba family for the involvement of a dozen Belgian leaders.
The only remaining remnants of Lumumba only re-appear during an interview with Humo, Godelieve Soete, the daughter of the corpse separator. She then showed some bullets and one gilded election to the journalist and photographer. Only after that interview did a house search with Godelieve Soete, the daughter of the corpse after a complaint from De Witte. The bullets and tooth are seized. According to De Witte, they are still lying somewhere in a box in the Justice Palace in Brussels. Should those remains not return to Lumumba’s relatives? The family will think so.