More than 50 years after the assassination of Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba, a court in the former colonial power Wednesday gave the go-ahead to a long-awaited judicial probe into his death.
At stake is the role of a dozen Belgians in the January 17, 1961 assassination of Lumumba, the first lawfully elected premier of the Congo who is viewed as a hero across Africa for his role in the continent's struggle for independence.
Lumumba was deposed in a coup barely 12 weeks after his June 1960 election, and subsequently arrested and executed by firing squad in a murky Cold War era episode said to have involved the CIA.
A year ago his sons filed a war crimes complaint in Belgium against 12 Belgians they suspect of involvement in their father's death.
"It is a father I am looking for, a father whom I still love, and I want to know why he was killed," his youngest son, Guy Lumumba, said at the time.
"We are targeting the assassins. In Belgium, there are 12 of them. They are alive and we want them to answer for their ignoble acts before justice," he said.
Ruling on the complaint Wednesday, a Brussels court linked to Belgium's appeals tribunal found that the prosecutor's office could go ahead with a probe to establish whether those named were involved in his death.
The court was asked to decide whether the complaint met unique Belgian legislation allowing for the prosecution of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide on condition the plaintiffs or accused had an established link to Belgium.
The identities of the accused Belgians had not been released but Belga news agency said eight were still alive, one a businessman who at the time was a young diplomat working with secessionists in mineral-rich Katanga.
Westerners during the colonial period acquired stakes in the Congo's huge mineral wealth, including uranium used to manufacture the first atomic weapons.
Lumumba was murdered when not yet 40-years-old by Katanga officials after Joseph-Desire Mobutu took power in a coup.
The country, now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo, was renamed Zaire by Mobutu.
Another of his sons said in 2010 that "clarification" of the circumstances of his father's death was needed to boost ties with former colonial ruler Belgium.
"We are convinced that in order to achieve that, the circumstance of the assassination of our leader must be clarified, on the basis of transparent justice," Francois Lumumba said.
A Belgian parliamentary inquiry concluded in 2001 that Belgium had a "moral responsibility" in Lumumba's assassination and the government apologised to its former colony but no legal action was taken.