'First national hero': Congolese community in Brussels pays tribute to Lumumba

'First national hero': Congolese community in Brussels pays tribute to Lumumba
Lydia Mutyebele, the alderman of Equal Opportunities, at the Lumumba tribute. Credit: Lydia Mutyebele

As Belgium finally returned the tooth of DRC’s assassinated leader Patrice Emery Lumumba, the Congolese community in Brussels paid tribute to their first Prime Minister after the country’s independence.

The tribute took place on Lumumba Square in the Matongé district in Ixelles on Tuesday afternoon.

The square was the first place where Lumumba’s relics arrived on its journey to and through Congo for mourning ceremonies. It will eventually be interred in the Patrice Lumumba Memorial in Kinshasa.

The remains were brought to the Lumumba Square from the Congolese embassy in Brussels, where they arrived around 15:00. Several Congolese from the neighbourhood paid tribute to the man they call ‘their national hero’, Bruzz reports.

An inspiration

Lydia Mutyebele, the Alderman of Equal Opportunities, says this is the result of a long struggle that has now finally come to an end. “The family and associations in Brussels have fought, to support this return and the political world has followed suit. Working together always pays off,” she said.

She still finds inspiration in Lumumba’s actions, saying he’s a national hero who knew how to stand up to colonial authority in 1960 when many at the time would not dare to. “I try to have his courage in the things I do today.”

Dido Lakama, President of the Afropean Youth Association ‘Change Asbl’ in Belgium, one of the NGOs behind the huge Black Lives Matters protests in Brussels in June 2020, helped organise the event. “As Bantus (ethnic groups in Central Africa), the return of the remains is important. Even spiritually, because it allows us to put the person in the ground and also let the family mourn,” he explained.

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Lakama does wonder whether people in Belgium understand what Lumumba means for Congolese people: “Lumumba stands for many values ​​such as freedom, justice and determination. But above and beyond, he is the example of sacrifice. For the nation and humanity, with justice and dignity,” he said.

Instilling hope

Lumumba is also a symbol of hope for the Congolese youth. “The young people have re-appropriated the story and we will continue to press and work with the Belgian and Congolese judiciary to restore dignity, justice and truth,” Lakama concluded.

The President of GFAIA, an organisation of activist African women, Elena Matundu, regrets what happened during the colonisation in Congo. Belgium’s failure to apologise also relates to the murder of the country’s first hero. “We are waiting for an apology for what happened during the colonisation,” she said.

Following the local tribute, Lumumba’s remains will arrive in Kinshasa on Wednesday, when they will be taken to his home village, Lumumbaville in the Sankuru province.

After that, the tooth will be taken around other provinces, such as Kisangani and Haut-Katanga, for citizens to pay tributes, before returning to the capital Kinshasa.

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