The plane carrying his remains, of which only one tooth remains returned on June 20 by Belgium to the DRC, must leave Lubumbashi (south-east) in the morning. At the time of take-off, the flags will be lowered throughout the territory in tribute to the first Prime Minister of the country assassinated more than 61 years ago, for a national mourning scheduled until June 30.

President Félix Tshisekedi will head the coffin reception committee at Ndjili International Airport in Kinshasa, surrounded by customary chiefs present in the Congolese capital, according to the official program.

As at the stages of Sankuru (center), his native land, Kisangani (north-east), former political stronghold of the national hero and Haut-Katanga, the place of his assassination on January 17, 1961, a cultural and religious program is planned in Kinshasa, the stage of national mourning and burial.

Traditional songs, with pygmy polyphony and a hundred tom-tom drummers, will accompany the procession from the airport to the People’s Palace, seat of the Congolese Parliament, where tributes will be paid to him by officials, guests and population.

Elected in May 1960 deputy for the Kisangani constituency, it was in Kinshasa (formerly Leopoldville) that Patrice Lumumba was appointed Prime Minister, in his capacity as leader of the majority coalition in the two chambers of Parliament.

But it was with a speech against the racism of the Belgian colonists that he entered into legend on June 30, 1960, becoming an icon of African independence.

“We have known the ironies, the insults, the blows that we had to suffer morning, noon and evening, because we were Negroes”, he declared in Kinshasa in front of King Baudouin during the official ceremony marking the birth of the DR. Congo, while the program did not provide for him to speak.

According to historians, this virulent speech had sealed the fate of this nationalist considered a “communist” by his detractors.

His tenure as head of government of the newly independent state lasted only 75 days, from June 30 to September 12, 1960.

His government was neutralized by President Joseph Kasa-Vubu and army chief Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, who installed an interim government team made up mainly of students and the few Congolese academics, dubbed the “Government of General Commissioners”.

Placed under house arrest, he was able to escape the vigilance of the soldiers assigned to his custody and left Kinshasa by road to reach his stronghold of Kisangani, where his relatives had preceded him to prepare the resistance.

But before reaching the center of the country, his executioners arrested him and brought him back to his formidable opponents, who imposed a way of the cross on him until his death by Katangese separatists in Shilatembo, near Lubumbashi, with the support of Belgian mercenaries.

His body, dissolved in acid, was never found. It took decades to discover that human remains had been kept in Belgium, when a Belgian police officer involved in the disappearance bragged about it in the media. A tooth that this policeman had in his possession was seized in 2016 by Belgian justice.

The burial ceremony will take place on June 30, Independence Day, in a site set up on a major thoroughfare in the Congolese capital which bears the name of this martyr of the independence of the DRC.