Hundreds gather to pay respects to Patrice Lumumba, who was murdered by a firing squad, his body hacked to pieces and finally dissolved in acid, with tacit backing of ex-colonial ruler Belgium, which kept a memento of his known remains – a tooth.

The funeral was held on the 62nd anniversary of the central African country's independence.
The funeral was held on the 62nd anniversary of the central African country's independence. (AFP)

The family of Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) murdered independence hero Patrice Lumumba has buried his only known remains, a tooth, in the capital Kinshasa, 61 years after his murder at the hands of Belgian-backed secessionist rebels.

Hundreds gathered on Thursday in a vast square for the occasion, waving flags and looking upon a large photo of Lumumba, with his trademark horn-rimmed glasses and side-swept hair, framed by white flowers.

A banner with the words "Many thanks, National Hero" was suspended over the crowd, which included the president of neighbouring Congo Republic, Denis Sassou Nguesso, Belgium's foreign minister and several African ambassadors.

"Finally the Congolese people can have the honour of offering a burial to their illustrious prime minister," President Felix Tshisekedi said. 

"We are ending ... mourning we started 61 years ago."

Lumumba was killed by a firing squad on January 16, 1961, in the southeastern province of Katanga after being ousted as prime minister the previous year, all within months of DRC's independence from Belgium.

READ MORE: Belgium hands over stolen tooth to family of DRC independence hero

READ MORE: Was Patrice Lumumba's assassination the most important of the last century?

Belgium 'morally responsible' for murder

The funeral was held on the 62nd anniversary of the central African country's independence. On that day, Lumumba gave a fiery speech lambasting Belgium's 75-year colonisation of DRC.

DRC's first democratically elected prime minister, Lumumba alarmed the West with overtures to Moscow at the height of the Cold War.

His government lasted just three months before he was overthrown and assassinated. 

Supporters and some historians accuse the CIA of involvement.

A Belgian parliamentary investigation into Lumumba's killing concluded in 2002 that Belgium was "morally responsible" for his death.

The body was never found. His only remaining tooth was reportedly taken by a Belgian policeman, Gerard Soete, who claimed to have dissolved much of the corpse in acid and burned the rest.

Belgium, whose King Philippe visited DRC for the first time this month, handed the tooth over to Lumumba's family on June 20.

"Your return home, the honours you are receiving here are a page of the history you continue to write," said one of his grand-daughters in a letter to Lumumba she read at the funeral.

"With you, today, Africa is writing its own history," she said.

READ MORE: The worst Belgian colonial atrocities that Congolese can't forget

READ MORE: Belgium’s return of Lumumba’s remains is disingenuous and hollow

Source: Reuters