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The nine-day pilgrimage that retraced the highlights of Patrice Lumumba’s life in the Democratic Republic of Congo ended in Kinshasa on Thursday with the burial of his coffin, more than 61 years after his assassination and the same day of the 62nd anniversary of the country’s independence.
The coffin of Patrice Lumumba was buried in Kinshasa on Thursday June 30, the anniversary of the independence of the Democratic Republic of Congo, more than 61 years after his assassination and at the end of a nine-day pilgrimage which retraced the highlights of his life.
During a very solemn ceremony, with all the honors, the President of the DRC Félix Tshisekedi spoke directly to Patrice Lumumba, facing the coffin containing what remains of the remains of the martyr of independence: a tooth, having the value of relic.
“I thank you, Mr. First Prime Minister” of the independent Congo, “our national hero”, he said, after hailing the “merciless fight against colonialism”, the fight “for freedom and independence” led by Lumumba. “May the land of our ancestors be sweet and light to you”.
Shortly after, the coffin was brought to a concrete and glass mausoleum, surmounted by an imposing statue of Lumumba, erected on the avenue that bears his name and leads to Kinshasa’s international airport, at “l’Echangeur of Limete”. The opening to the public of this mausoleum is scheduled for the end of August.
In a room set up nearby, at the foot of “the Echangeur tower” which symbolizes the city of Kinshasa, some twenty Congolese artists have reproduced in their own way the life, vision and political heritage of this hero of the African independence.
“Lumumba carried the weight of the demands and sufferings of the Congolese population against Belgium. The path remained rocky, but he knew how to lead the people to independence”, analyzes the organizer of the exhibition, the artist Franck Dikisongele, in front of a painting showing the hero towing an overflowing cart covered with the flag of the DRC.
“Unfortunately, he also shed his blood,” he adds, continuing the visit.
“Blood and Spirit”
According to historians, it was his virulent speech against the racism of Belgian settlers that made him a legend on June 30, 1960, the day of the proclamation of the independence of the former Belgian Congo.
A speech which also sealed the fate of this nationalist considered a communist by his detractors.
After only 75 days, he was overthrown and, a few months later, assassinated with two companions on January 17, 1961 in Shilatembo, in Haut-Katanga (southeast), by Katangese separatists and Belgian mercenaries.
His body, dissolved in acid, was never found. It took decades to discover that human remains had been kept in Belgium, when a Belgian police officer who participated in the disappearance boasted about it. A tooth that this policeman had in his possession was seized in 2016 by Belgian justice.
The Congolese president was pleased that a burial could finally be offered to the martyr of independence. He thanked the family of Patrice Lumumba, whose children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were present, but also “the Belgian people and their authorities” for, he said, “having contributed to the restoration of the truth” about Lumumba’s assassination, “after years of denial”.
>> To (re) see: Roland Lumumba on the assassination of his father Patrice: “We are always looking for the truth”
Indeed, estimated Félix Tshisekedi, “it is only after having told the truth, after having established the responsibilities of each other that we can together, Congolese and Belgians, begin the decisive stage of forgiveness, justice and true and final reconciliation”.
After the official return by Belgium to the DRC of Patrice Lumumba’s tooth on June 20, the coffin of the Congolese national hero arrived on the 22nd in the DRC and then transported to Sankuru (center), his native land, in Kisangani (north -est), his political stronghold, then on the place of his torture.
“The funeral is the end of the process. The journey conformed to the practices for the mourning of exceptional leaders like Lumumba”, estimated with AFP the Congolese filmmaker Balufu Kanyinda, organizer of the funeral.
“I live in Sankuru. The blood and the spirit of Lumumba live in me. I am here because his spirit will no longer wander”, declared for his part after the ceremony a young man of 24 years, Didier Shonda, sporting the same hairstyle as Lumumba. “From now on, we know where to recharge our batteries to totally liberate our country and African youth”.
A national mourning that began on Monday ended after the burial of the hero’s remains.