“I would like to apologize to the Belgian government for the way it weighed in on the decision to put an end to the life of the Congolese prime minister,” said Alexander De Croo.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo renewed on Monday 20 June the “excusesof Belgium for the responsibility of certain leaders and officials of the former colonial power in the assassination of the Congolese hero of independence Patrice Lumumba, in Katanga in 1961.
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“This moral responsibility of the Belgian government, we have recognized it and I repeat it again on this official day of farewell of Belgium to Patrice Emery Lumumba. I would like here, in the presence of his family, to present in turn the apologies of the Belgian government for the way in which it weighed on the decision to put an end to the days of the Prime Minister of the country“Said Alexander De Croo on the occasion of the restitution to his relatives of a tooth of Patrice Lumumba.
Threat to economic interests
The Belgian Prime Minister spoke in front of his Congolese counterpart Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde and the children of Patrice Lumumba, gathered in front of a coffin which was to accommodate a box containing the tooth. Prime Minister of the former Belgian Congo which became independent on June 30, 1960 (the former Zaire, today the Democratic Republic of Congo), Patrice Lumumba was overthrown in mid-September 1960 by a coup d’etat.
He was executed on January 17, 1961 with two brothers in arms, Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okito, by separatists from the Katanga region (south), with the support of Belgian mercenaries. Perceived as pro-Soviet by Washington in the midst of the Cold War, considered a threat to Western economic interests in the Congo, he acquired after his death the stature of an African champion of anti-imperialism. His body, dissolved in acid, was never found. Returning to the conditions of this “terrible» assassination, in a secessionist Katanga refusing to recognize the new power resulting from independence, Alexander De Croo pointed the finger at Belgian officials who at the time «chose not to see», «not to act“.
“HASmurdered for his political beliefs»
He recalled that a parliamentary commission of inquiry carried out in Belgium in 2000-2001 had concluded that “moral responsibilityof the country in the assassination. This commission of inquiry, he said,concluded that the Belgian government obviously disregarded the physical integrity of Patrice Lumumba and that after his assassination, this same government deliberately spread lies about the circumstances of his death“. “Several Belgian government ministers at the time therefore bear moral responsibility for the circumstances that led to this murder. This is a painful and unpleasant truth. But it must be said“, continued the Flemish liberal leader.
And to continue:Belgian ministers, diplomats, civil servants or soldiers may not have intended to have Patrice Lumumba assassinated, no evidence has been found to attest to this. But they should have perceived that his transfer to Katanga would put his life in danger. They should have warned, they should have refused any help for the transfer of Patrice Lumumba to the place where he was executed. They chose not to see. They chose not to act“. “A man was assassinated for his political beliefs, his words, his ideal. For the democrat that I am it is indefensible, for the liberal that I am it is unacceptable. And for the human that I am it’s odious“. In February 2002, through the voice of the head of diplomacy at the time Louis Michel, the Belgian government had already presented the “excusesfrom Belgium to the Congolese people.