A Belgian judge has agreed that a tooth taken from the remains of assassinated Congolese independence leader, Patrice Lumumba, be returned to his family.
The tooth had been seized from a Belgian policeman who by his own account took it while helping to dispose of Lumumba’s body after the charismatic leader was murdered in 1961.
Spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office, Eric Van Duyse, told newsmen that the tooth would be returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo, a former Belgian colony that gained independence 60 years ago.
He described the return as a symbolic gesture since there was no absolute certainty that the tooth was Lumumba’s.
The tooth had been held as evidence in a separate case.
A pan-Africanist who played a key part in steering Belgian Congo towards independence, Lumumba was appointed the newly decolonized country’s first premier at the age of just 34.
In the presence of the then-king Baudouin, he used the moment of independence to lash Belgium for racist persecution and forcing humiliating slavery on the Congolese people.
On June 30 this year — the 60th anniversary of independence — his daughter Juliana Amato Lumumba called on Belgium to return her father’s relics.
Belgium’s current monarch, Philippe, also chose the anniversary to make a landmark gesture, expressing his deepest regrets for the suffering and humiliation of his country’s reign.
Historians say millions were killed, mutilated or died of disease as they worked on rubber plantations belonging to the rapacious 19th-century king Leopold II.