Hidden Belgium: Place Lumumba

Hidden Belgium: Place Lumumba
Credit: Belga

On 17 January 1961, the prime minister of the newly-independent Congo was assassinated. Patrice Lumumba had won the election with a huge popular support in his own country. Sometimes called Africa’s Che Guevara, he was a charismatic leader who was widely respected across the continent.

He was brought down by a coup led by the army leader Mobutu Sese Seko, supported by the Belgian government and the United States. Captured and imprisoned, Lumumba was executed, and his body burned.

For many years, the Belgian authorities refused to accept any blame. But in 2002 the country finally admitted its ‘moral responsibility’ for its role in the execution. Twenty years later, in 2022, the country returned a single gold tooth – all that survived of Lumumba’s body – to his daughter.

In 2018, the commune of Ixelles named a square Place Patrice Lumumba in honour of the African martyr.

Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.


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