Remains of independence hero Patrice Lumumba return to DR Congo

People stand next to the coffin of Democratic Republic of Congo's first prime minister and independence hero Patrice Lumumba during a tribute ceremony at The Congolese Embassy before the departure of his last remains to DR Congo in Brussels on June 21, 2022. - The tribute takes place a day after an official ceremony to return the slain Congolese leader's tooth -- all that is left of the anti-colonialist icon who was murdered by Congolese separatists and Belgian mercenaries in 1961. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)
People stand next to the coffin of Democratic Republic of Congo’s first prime minister and independence hero Patrice Lumumba during a tribute ceremony at The Congolese Embassy before the departure of his last remains to DR Congo in Brussels on June 21, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

The coffin of Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba returns to his homeland on Wednesday for an emotionally charged tour and burial, more than six decades after his assassination.

A plane will take Lumumba’s last remains — a tooth that ex-colonial power Belgium handed over to his family on Monday — from Brussels to Kinshasa for a nine-day trip around the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The coffin and an accompanying delegation will then fly to the central province of Sankuru, where the country’s first post-independence leader was born in the village of Onalua in 1925.

The remains will visit sites symbolically important to Lumumba’s life and be laid to rest in a mausoleum in the capital Kinshasa on June 30, following three days of national mourning.

“His spirit, which was imprisoned in Belgium, comes back here,” said Onalua Maurice Tasombo Omatuku, a traditional chief and nephew of Lumumba.

Finally able to mourn his uncle but knowing he was assassinated in 1961, Omatuku said he was feeling emotionally torn.