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Jean Pierre Elonga Mboyo

THE UNEXPECTED
HOMECOMING

Copyright Jean Pierre Elonga Mboyo (2015)


The right of Jean Pierre Elonga Mboyo to be identified as author
of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with section
77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any
form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the
publishers.
Any person who commits any unauthorized act in relation to this
publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims
for damages.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British
Library.
ISBN 9781785541971 (Paperback)
ISBN 9781785541988 (Hardback)
www.austinmacauley.com
First Published (2015)
Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd.
25 Canada Square
Canary Wharf
London
E14 5LQ

Printed and bound in Great Britain

Acknowledgments

My thanks go to Vincent Asambom and Nicholas Oyugi for


proof-reading and other useful suggestions.

Contents

The authors personal statement: Why write a book on my


experiences?...................................................................................1
Prologue.........................................................................................4
Chapter 1: From the DRC to the UK via Uganda.........................9
Chapter 2: From the UK back to the DRC...................................30
Chapter 3: Dealing with the unexpected in the DRC...................49
Chapter 4: Leaving the DRC back to the UK.............................108
Epilogue.....................................................................................116
Preparing for DRC.....................................................................123

The authors personal statement:


Why write a book on my
experiences?

Although migration flows from poor to rich countries


gain the most attention, return flows of migrants to
their countries of origin are substantial (Dean Yang1
2006 p.715).
While the stories and themes discussed here will touch
on the question why return home?, this book is more
about what happens once the decision to return home
has been made, everything deemed necessary has
been assembled and the shock ordeal that awaited me
a few days after I set foot on my homeland (the
Democratic Republic of Congo DRC). But in
retracing the journey, it discusses a variety of other
topics ranging from polygamy, leaving home,
studies, priesthood, multiculturalism, war, poverty,
immigration, culture shock, family, teaching,
education, resignation, taking risks, hope, despair,
help, crime, law to justice system.
1

Dean Yang (2006). Why do Migrants return to poor countries?


Evidence from Philippine migrants responses to exchange rates shocks,
in The Review of Economics and Statistics, 88, 4, 715-735.

Here, I am not concerned about basic general facts


about either the United Kingdom as compared to the
DRC. There are some generally accepted realities
about the different weather patterns, geographical and
cultural differences about these countries, for
example, that may not need another book. Instead, the
urge to share my story and thoughts springs from the
contextual uniqueness of the experiences that I hope
will shed some light into the state of mind of
individuals, certain sections of society and various
structures in Kinshasa/DRC, Uganda and the United
Kingdom. Except for the 1% fiction part which I
would let the reader determine, the rest (99%) is a real
story that is set in a particular time and space and told,
admittedly, from the authors perspective reserving the
right to all those who might feel misrepresented to
give their accounts as the experiences recounted here
would have affected them. But, to respond to the great
tradition of storytelling, we owe it to all readers and
future generations to provide a trace of reality in my
time and how repercussions to some of lifes difficult
decisions and choices were handled.
Any work that is meant to hopefully contribute to
the development of humanity must aim to eradicate
suffering rather than add to what is already out there.
This is why I intend to use pseudo names such as
Camille Fabien Bayu (CFB), Bill, Bo, Dan, Felly,
Fiston, Honorable Patala (HP), Maboko Milai (MM),
Paul, Ringo, Samuel, Stan, Ta, Tina or general terms
such as wife, children, lawyers, to refer to people that
the main characters here would have hired or sought
advice from. Unless they choose not to, I mention real
names when paying tribute to friends such as Vincent
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Asambom, Charles and Angela Okula, Jeanette de


Suza, Maria Silva Rosa, Antoinette, Nicholas and
Charity Oyugi, Francis, Henry, Anguo and Chia Bass.
I will also use real names to refer to geographical
places and institutions. Pseudo naming does not apply
to main characters such as me/I (Jean Pierre Elonga
Mboyo), Oscar Kapongo Kabata (OKK), Jean Claude
Kabata (JCK), Oscar Kabata Balodji (OKB), Bibi
Kabata, Mado Kabata, Thrse Kabata, Teddy, Koko,
Sanza
What you and the next generation will do next as a
result of learning about these characters and what they
did is a matter of personal choice. However, the
detailed descriptions, situations, twists and turns,
reflections and responses to dilemmas embedded in
this particular story could be the talking point of
diasporan communities, business men and women,
lawyers and serve as a case study for students at law
universities and to anyone new to the Congolese way
of doing business and handling of the unexpected
events that I witnessed. The intention to share my
experiences may be construed as my attempt to
vindicate my actions but I bet there will be moments
when as a reader you might think I could have done
things differently here. It is that sort of engagement
that this publication hopes to achieve and in the
process make us streetwise, so to speak.

Prologue

Although migration flows from poor to rich countries


gain the most attention, return flows of migrants to
their countries of origin are substantial (Dean Yang
2006 p.715).
Elonga and Theo (South African) discuss the
quote
Theo: if, thats the case then its great news.
Elonga: why?
Theo: our African leaders repeatedly call on the
diapora to return!
Elonga: but why?
Theo: to contribute to the development. Has it not
occurred to you that Africa is the future not Europe?
Im sure once they are in their motherlands, they
wouldnt want to leave again!
Elonga: Eh, except that some do actually leave,
find out why!
Elonga and Mark (British) discuss the quote
Mark: is that true?
Elonga: it seems to be, according to Dean!
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Mark: thats brilliant then,


Elonga: I wonder what happens to them once they
return home.
Mark: It wouldnt bother me mate; many of us
would be grateful to swap a boat ride across the
Mediterranean and a dark confined space at the back
of a lorry into here for a heros welcome aboard
Boeing 77whatever! Look, they are out and thats
what matters!
Elonga: Eh, except that some do actually come
back, find out why!
Fast-forward Deans assertion to the summer of
2014 and there I was set to return to the Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC) rounding off a three year
stay in Uganda and a subsequent 15 eventful years in
the United Kingdom. I was going back to where it all
began.
My DRC roots: Forget the Heart of Darkness of
Joseph Conrad (1899) where the title of the novel
portrays a generation that is very much concerned
about the dual distinction between the more versus the
less civilised or human. In a world now threatened by
excessive greenhouse emissions and global warming,
this real life story begins rather from an oasis of vast
forest reserves which are home to some rare species
such as Bonobos, rivers with huge varieties of aquatic
creatures, and people straddling between the urge to
preserve their cultural heritage and a burning desire
for modernisation and better living conditions. We are
in no other place than the territory of Djolu, within the
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district of Tshuapa in the North Western province of


Equateur in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
where I was born and raised.
Djolu stands at about 1000 km away from the
DRCs capital Kinshasa and there are no direct roads
linking them. Boats, transporting people and their
goods from Kinshasa to the nearest ports (Befori,
Boende, Mompono, or Lisala), take at least a month to
get there. If you didnt want that, the only way in and
out was by plane to Mbandaka, Basankusu or Boende
which respectively stand at about 600, 450 and 240
km away from Djolu. Djolu itself has an airstrip that
would only take some chattered small planes.
Family: My mother is a trained midwife and one
of the wives to my polygamous dad who after
spending several years as a primary school head
moved on to an administrative role still in education
but outside a school setting. I am one of the 8 children
from my mum and more than a dozen from my dad.
Both, and sometimes three of my (step) mothers
lived under the same roof. This may have had
something to do with affordability problems as I
wouldnt imagine the likes of President Jacob Zuma of
South Africa keeping his four wives under the same
roof. My mothers had their rows but could have some
intimate conversations and laughs that can only be
likened to the famous phrase in American politics: a
team of rivals.
Polygamy is not prevalent here but it does happen.
It has been said that the wealthy and powerful men
that give up polygamous practices, do so in exchange
for votes from the poorer men. Others reckon a
woman actually chooses to enter into a polygamous
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arrangement if she thinks the man has enough dosh to


look after her. Here, the idea of having more than one
wife (polygamy) may have something to do with male
anxiety management.
When growing up, we used to repeat a refrain of a
song lost in my memory. Sang in Longando, which is
my mother tongue, it used to go like this: boli omoko
nsoleonjemba, bali basaso nsolealikambo meaning
you marry one wife and you smell bachelorhood but
marry three and you smell trouble. On a personal
level, of the more permanent of my mothers, my
biological mum remains cuddly and soft spoken. My
step mother was more of a disciplinarian. Both
qualities were needed in our household. Though my
mum and dad worked, we didnt depend on their
salaries for food. Our farms produce, fishing and
hunting exploits provided us with our daily bread. We
would sit around the fire, listening to traditional
stories while waiting for our evening meal.
There were good primary and secondary schools to
go to but beyond that the nearest university was about
300 km away. Things are slightly different now with
the creation in Djolu in 2003, of a higher education
institute for rural development (ISDR Djolu in short)
by a local intellectual turned politian Albert Lokasola
Lotana. I completed my primary and secondary school
studies within Djolu before moving outside the area in
Baringa for a two year course in English and
Spirituality as part of the programme set up by the
Mill Hill Missionaries for their candidates to the
missionary priesthood.
Mill Hill Missionaries are a Catholic organisation
made up of priests, brothers and lay members set up in
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1866 by Cardinal Herbert Vaughan who also built


Westminster Cathedral in central London. They work
all over the world including the DRC in the Diocese of
Basankusu which has Djolu as one of its deaneries.
With dwindling numbers of recruits in the west, Mill
Hill society turned to young Africans to keep its work
alive and this is how my teenage interest with their
missionary way of life shaped what I would do next. I
spent two years from 1994 to 1996 in the centre
(CEFAS/Baringa) that they set up within the Diocese
(Basankusu) before moving on to the next stage
outside the DRC.

Chapter 1:
From the DRC to the UK via
Uganda

Priesthood: My missionary dream took me to


Jinja/Uganda where I spent a full three years (August
1996 till May 1999) without a holiday home in
between. I was still in my early twenties then and the
Congo war (that is still claiming its victims up to now)
had just broken out soon after my departure. The war
began as a joint Ugandan and Rwandan backed
rebellion led by Laurent Kabila to oust an ailing
dictator (Mobutu) whod been in power for 32 years.
Once in power (in 2001), the self-declared
president Laurent Kabila fell out with his backers who
in turn sponsored other armed groups to allegedly rid
Eastern Congo of renegade 1994 Rwandan genocide
fighters. To the Congolese, this second invasion and
continued support to different armed groups were just
a pretext for Rwanda and Uganda to slice off or
balkanise Congo and lay their hands on its minerals.
In that mle that drew up to 10 African countries
(Angola, Chad, Libya, Namibia, Soudan and
Zimbabwe for the DRC government side and Rwanda,
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Uganda and Burundi for the rebel sides) my family


members, in Djolu, had to sometimes take to the forest
for days and weeks to flee from the different
advancing and/or retreating (rebel or government)
troops. Spending that length of time away from my
family was understandably agonising.
Luckily for me, the intellectual stimulation derived
from studying philosophy was as therapeutic as the
warmth of living in a welcoming environment that
Uganda was in those days. I am grateful to the likes of
Assoumpta and several families in Mbiko, Kokonjeru
and others across Uganda. I am particularly indebted
to the hospitality of the Okulas who turned their home
into my/our home away from home. Charles and
Angela Okula who we simply called daddy and
mummy lived with their 6 children at about 3 miles
away from the seminary house in Jinja/Uganda. Chia
Bass and Anguo Justin both from Cameroon were two
and a year respectively ahead of us and both visited
the Okulas as their family friends. Since I was close to
my Cameroonian friends in our year, we got
introduced to them and this is how a Congolese
managed to sneak into this circle of pure humanity,
friendship and love.
In those days, most people in Ugandan towns used
bicycles to get around. There were people who would
provide a bicycle ride for money and it was called
Bodaboda meaning boarder to boarder (a practice
that originated from taking people from the Kenyan
border to the Ugandan border). We were given one
bicycle each to get us around especially during
weekends when we had to visit the community as part
of our missionary work. When that work was over we
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would turn up at the Okulas, usually unannounced,


and expect to be fed and watered. As well as the main
house, they had built a boys quarter which became
our dormitory at Christmas, Easter and other holidays.
He would even organise excursions to his home
village which meant organising transport to and
through for 10+ of us. Some would argue that human
relations are defined by personal interests but I fail to
see what the Okulas would have gained from us.
There are dreams which are only hopes within a
realistic world that we live in. But there are dreams
that are unimaginable because ones surrounding does
not lend itself to the realisation of such dreams and yet
they still happen to you. Living and growing up in
Djolu it was beyond my dreams, as it were, to study
with a mix of Africans from different countries in the
same institution. But thats just what happened. There
I was, in Uganda, interacting with the people that
would later become my best friends from Cameroun,
Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, and Tanzania etc.
I may not have enjoyed consulting my EnglishFrench dictionary more than 100 times a day to keep
up with lectures and social life, but in hindsight, this
monotonous practice in the context of learning a
language has its benefits that I know all too well.
Besides mastering Longando and Lingala which are
both my mother tongues and French which is the
DRCs school and official language, I now had to
learn 3 additional languages. It was so tough that even
an old friend I reconnect with through social network
had to remind me about asking our African
Philosophy lecturer a daft question such as what
does a deity mean? I was paranoid that I even fell out
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with my Kenyan friend who happened to smile while I


was speaking and I thought my English must be so
poor to make this guy laugh at me. In spite of those
moments and many more, with hard work I have had
more doors open than shut to me with my broken
Luganda, not so perfect Swahili and now fluent
English.
London: One window of opportunity that opened up
to me was coming to England in August 1999 to study
Theology in the context of fulfilling my missionary
dream. The cultural shock though when landing at
Heathrow airport had the unimaginable effect of
shutting this opportunity down and boarding the next
plane back to Kinshasa, where full-on kisses were the
exclusive business of the bedroom. But I was where I
was and London was going to be my new home. As
time moved on, England offered me more than a
repulsive hanky-panky that one might encounter at the
beginning of the autumn season at one of the worlds
busiest airports (Heathrow). The sense of duty, the
generosity of friends, and the understandable logic in
the system that lay down the rules of the game for all,
that can be associated with life in the UK, were
enviable and attractive.
The Ugandan experience had been beyond my
dreams but living in North West London was surreal.
Here I was studying not only with fellow Africans but
with candidates from various continents. I had
graduated from using bicycles in Uganda to having 1
or 2 students cars. They cared so much for you that
they would even show you how to use a hoover. The 4
winged Mill Hill Missionaries headquarter at a time
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was a listed building and it was so huge that it, at


times, felt lonely. Lonely but safe, shielding you from
the hustle and bustle and complex transport system out
there that made me not venture out on my own for at
least 2 months. Two years down the line and my shot
at missionary life didnt work out. I decided for
legitimate reasons that I was going to do something
else instead. I completed the Theology cycle
nevertheless and wondered what to do thereafter.
I opted for a career in education after being
presented with some ideas such as marriage and/or
applying for asylum status. This was 2002 and the war
that has directly and indirectly claimed the lives of
more than 4 million people was still raging in DRC.
Just on death toll alone and 4 million is a conservative
figure, the DRC could be said to have endured at least
470 devastating Ebola outbreaks similar to the
2014/15 West African one in the last 18 years.
I could go on a rant about the moral scar it has left
on the leadership at all levels (national and
international) but besides the lives that have already
been lost across the country, we can mention the many
women and underage girls that continue to fall victims
of sexual attacks in Eastern Congo. The rape of an 18
month old girl and family members being forced to
sleep with their relatives before they are gang raped by
armed men are dreadful stories and doctors such as
Denis Mukwege who recently was awarded the
European parliament top human rights prize for
treating raped women cannot be thanked enough. The
internal as well as external human displacement
resulting from such instability cannot be
underestimated. It was a no brainer then that my friend
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would advise me to lodge in an asylum application


with the home office.
Tempting though it was, it wouldnt only have
been an insult to genuine people who, in fear of
persecution in their countries of origin seek refuge in
their host countries, but I also had trouble lying
despite possible coaching sessions. And I am not
talking about little white lies. Possible years of
uncertainty were not things I felt comfortable with. I
wanted to work hard even though teaching was the
only viable card on the table. This is not to suggest
that all asylum seekers lie and that they dont work
hard.
From priesthood to teaching: The fact that I ended
up in education might have something to do with the
family genes. It is a family love affair since my father
and other family members, in DRC, are teachers. But
in my new English context, it was the most practical
thing to do. I was a foreign student paying fees at an
international rate and I needed a less costly strategy
that would get me into the world of employment in the
shortest time possible. Though a few sponsorship
applications were refused on the grounds that I didnt
meet the residency criteria, the 8,895 one year fee
worth of teacher training at Sheffield Hallam
University (SHU) and the likely prospect of obtaining
a work permit and gradually getting into a situation
where I didnt need one were more attractive than a
more costly (economics or other purely academic)
masters degree programme.
Raising the 8,895 still wasnt easy. Lets peddle
back a little before starting with SHU. I had spent two
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years studying fulltime with Mill Hill Missionaries.


And whenever I wasnt studying, I was visiting an
HIV/AIDS centre around Camden Town and youth
centre in St. Albans as part of the missionary work
that had brought me to London. In the third year, I
decided to part company with Mill Hill and ditched
the idea of priesthood all together. With that came the
consequence of finding my own accommodation and
taking care of myself. I had to complete the Theology
degree as well as find some work that would enable
me to save enough money for my teacher training
programme at SHU in the following year. Support
work was what did it for me. There was the constraint
of not exceeding 20 hours of work a week as per my
student visa rules but in support work, there are flat
rate sleepovers at the clients house which kept your
hours low but increased your income somehow. I had
a quiet and warm place where I could get my
assignments done once the client was in bed.
The change of career from priesthood to education
required making a geographical move from London to
South Yorkshire to reside in Doncaster and study with
SHU. My Cameroonian friend Vincent Asambom had
been living there and the reputable hospitality of
Northen England were enough to convince me to
brave the hostile Northen winters that are associated
with this part of the country. I still remember my
friend Maria Silva Roza driving me from London up
to Doncaster on 22nd August 2002.
How this particular stage in my life unfolded, and
the formidable social and financial help of friends like
Jeanette de Souza, Maria Silva Rosa, Vincent
Asambom and Antoinette, deserve special mention. I
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remember spending two weeks at my friends


(Vincent Asambom and his wife Mispa) house before
finding some below standard accommodation for
myself. I had enough money for my fees. So, my
overdraft of 1500 and an additional 1500 that my
friends Jeanette de Souza and Maria Silva Rosa had
given me was the budget I had for rent, transport, bills
and food for the entire year. The hardship of having to
wake up with the coat I wore to go to work the
previous day to keep warm, may not be something I
wish on myself, my children or anybody for that
matter but the skills and instinct of survival is
something I wanted to hang onto forever.
During this time and in the years that followed I
had to get used to the Northern accent, the loneliness,
the friendship, and everything that a foreign born
trainee-teacher had to deal with. I also had to learn the
ropes of teaching and build my teaching career in one
of the most deprived secondary schools in South
Yorkshire. I remember my friends would wait for a
funny story of what would have gone on in my
classroom. I also brought home great memories of the
most fantastic students doing what they do best:
learning. Hesitation and early career years doubt gave
way to confidence and I soon began to feel
comfortable as a teacher.
It is official that it wasnt love at first sight
between me and teaching. It was a matter of
convenience, circumstances and not a passion that I
have carried with me since being a child. It wasnt in
my blood, someone might say. It was marriage for the
wrong reasons. Have we not heard that before in our
political talk about bogus marriages, British-ness,
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