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Dec 23, 2014 9:33 AM

Widow of Congo's independence-era hero dies

The Associated Press

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) The widow of Patrice Lumumba, Congo's first prime minister whose assassination more than 50 years ago made him a liberation symbol worldwide, has died, the country's government spokesman said Tuesday.

Pauline Opango Lumumba, 78, died in her sleep on Tuesday in Kinshasa, Lambert Mende said.

"We present in the name of the government our sincere condolences to their children and members of the family," he said.

Patrice Lumumba was elected prime minister when Belgium granted Congo independence in 1960 after almost a century of colonial rule.

The exact circumstances of his 1961 death remain unknown, though it is generally seen as a Western plot to take power from a socialist-minded African leader.

A Belgian parliamentary probe determined that the government was "morally responsible" for Lumumba's death.

A U.S. Senate committee found in 1975 that the CIA had hatched a separate, failed plan to kill the Congolese leader.

The CIA and Britain's MI6 have been implicated, though no proof has ever been provided.

Lumumba was hastily buried after his killing. But Belgian policemen later dug up the corpse, dissolved it in acid and crushed the remaining bones to avoid turning the grave into a pilgrimage site.

His death ushered in the long, corrupt dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled for more than 30 years with the support of the United States and other Western governments and was finally overthrown in 1997.

Last year, Congo's government announced it was creating a new town named after Lumumba. Lumumbaville, located in Kasai-Oriental province, was to be made of several existing communities.

Mende said Tuesday it was still being built.


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