"Dear national hero, it was on the night of the 27th of November 1960 that you left Kinshasa, then Leopoldville, in total anonymity. Here you are again, 61 years later, under the gentle sun of this 30th of June, the sacred day of our liberation from the colonial yoke,” said President of the Democratic Republic of Congo Felix Tshisekedi at the ceremony
“We will proudly teach to our children the importance of this date so they will also be able to tell their sons and grandsons about the glorious history of our struggle for freedom,” he said.
Lumumba’s body was desecrated after his death. Gerard Soete, a Belgian police officer who claimed to have dissolved much of Lumumba’s corpse in acid and burned the rest, kept the only known remnant of the ousted leader: a gold tooth.
Earlier this month, King Philippe of Belgium visited the DRC and personally delivered the gold tooth
to the Congolese government. On Thursday, it lay inside a casket draped in the DRC flag, and will be interred in a mausoleum in the capital of Kinshasa after touring the country for several weeks.
Lumumba joined the movement for Congolese independence in 1958 and quickly became a prominent leader, attending the All-African People’s Conference in Ghana hosted by that country’s Pan-Africanist leader, Kwame Nkrumah
. Two years later, the Congolese National Movement declared independence and won the first elections, with Lumumba being appointed prime minister
days after the country officially became independent on June 30.
However, less than two weeks later, troops mutinied across the country and Belgium intervened militarily, with most Europeans in the country regrouping in the southern Katanga Province, where much of the country’s mineral wealth lay. President Joseph Kasavubu removed Lumumba from office in September, claiming he feared a Soviet intervention, and Lumumba regrouped in the eastern city of Stanleyville (today Kisagani).
Meanwhile, Kasavubu was himself overthrown by the military chief, Mobutu Sese Seko, whose government was then recognized by the United Nations. He remained the country’s military ruler for the next 30 years.
Lumumba was arrested in October 1960 and executed in January 1961 amid continued support for his release in the country.