Francine Mukwaya Sodi
Founder of Kitunga Ya Mboka
Congolese Activist and Human Rights Campaigner
Francine Mukwaya is a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is a human rights activist, her dream is to educate the global community about the challenges of the Congo and mobilize support for Congolese youth striving for social change inside the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Interveiw with Peacemaker 360
Activist of the day : Meet Francine Mukwaya Sodi
Could you describe the first moment when you realized you wanted to do this work?
First of all, I am allergic to injustices. Since my childhood, I have always been against everything that affects people unfairly around me. For example, when I was still a kid, I was used to expressing myself freely by denouncing the unjust and unhealthy attitudes of my friends. Whenever I had the opportunity, I did not spare any effort even when it was necessary to pay the price by losing my friendships. Apart from that, I come from parents of religious tradition, who transmitted us Christian values. One of the great values was respect for the human person, in dignity and rights.
In 2008, when I was in Newcastle, in north part of England, I was watching a news segment about my country that changed me completely.
It was about a rebel group called CNDP led by Nkunda Batware. This rebel movement was based in North-Kivu of DR Congo. The news showed how they were killing people, destroying everything in their path, raping women and girls, looting natural resources.
I was in shock because it was an outrageous and unforgettable tragedy. I began to question myself about what I could to do to help my people.
Couple months later I attended a conference, I was motivated by Dr Denis Mukwege’s speech. He encouraged us in these terms “we have Congo as our motherland, you the youth, it is your duty to take your destiny in your hands, assume your responsibilities while thinking about the future of Congo”. His speech changed me completely; it was like an alarm bell. That is how all started. I then decided it was time for me to do what I believe in the most: justice for all.
I began to educate people about the crisis in Congo. The 2011 elections in Congo transformed my vision because it was the climax of the bad will of Congolese leaders.
In 2013, I made a trip to New Hampshire in the US to study more about Congo in summer school training fund by Congolese called Kimpa Vita Institute. The institute aims to teach Congolese born or grown up outside the Congo about their heritage and their country. It is was a very irreversible occasion for my commitment to the Congo.
Could take us through a day of your work? Where do you put most of your time and energy?
I put more energy in things that I believe will bring a smile on someone’s face. It could be an advice or encouragement to a friend friend, it could be simply giving a hug to someone in distress. I believe in “every little thing in the world count much than we can think of”. Apart from that, I do put my energy into activities that make me an activist as well as my study and work.
What are your key achievements in your work?
Eight years ago, people around the globe, especially in the UK young people, didn’t know what was going on in Congo. I had a mission to educate people about the crisis in Congo; I had opportunities to speak in many universities in the UK such as SOAS University of London, Birmingham, Exeter universities, Universities of East London, Chatham House (The Royal Institute of international affairs) TVs and radios, African film festival in London etc. In an effort to generate support for the people of Congo, educate the global community about the challenges of the Congo, and mobilize support for Congolese youth striving for social change inside the Congo.
How does your organization promote inclusive participation of youth from diverse backgrounds?
Kitunga Ya Mboka in Lingala language (Basket of the Country) is a grass root community-centered organization. What we do is to provide a basic level of assistance on the areas of youth education as well as providing health care for those in greatest needs as well as support. We aim to promote the holistic education of our young Congolese children, from womb to primary and onto secondary as those because we believe that is the age. Our desire is to bring like-minded Congolese people from all parts of the Congo onto one platform.
What has been your hardest struggle so far, and how did you get over it?
My hardest struggle was when I was discriminated against due to my gender as a woman and age. I was pushed away by the people I trusted the most. However, I didn’t give up because I know what I do is ordained by God, and I know I was created to do this, also I love my people with passion. How did I get over it? I always felt motivated by these phrases that constitute my motto: “For the love of my country, I will not be silent.” Congo and Africa are my passion, its people are my heart. Congo is, in fact, my life, and I cannot give in to “laughter “until the Congolese people are freed from the burden imposed on them by their leaders.
What is the biggest challenge you currently face?
My biggest challenge now is to complete a project in Health sector in Congo. The project consists of promoting hygiene; reduce the stigma of sickle, Down syndrome and children with learning difficulties in our society. The project is taking time due to lack of finances and instability in the country, but we believe we will be able to accomplish it.
What has been your biggest surprise on this journey so far?
I have had amazing opportunities in activism work to connect with other conscious youth from different parts of the world. Being able to inspire many youth is my biggest surprise especially Congolese youth in the diaspora and in Congo as well. When I started my activism 8 years ago, many of my friends and colleagues used to think I should focus on simply being a youth, but today those friends are also activists. For me, it is an achievement as it is part of my dream to inspire and do what is good and right.
What keeps you going and give you inspiration in your work? What gives you hope?
I would like first to point out that, Democratic Republic of Congo is the land of our ancestors, it is our land today, tomorrow will be the land of our children’s children. So, it’s a legacy; and we only have that as a homeland that defines our identity as a distinct people in the world. It is incumbent upon us to preserve it against any destabilisation on any point of view.
So, my gaze on Congo is a look of: “Pain, Compassion and Hope”.
A look of sorrow because of what is going right now, drama, dictatorship, kidnapping of activists, rape, armed groups, systematic and premeditated massacres on civilian populations without any defence, the despicable poverty which contrasts with all the minerals resources the country has, insecurity and so many others terrible things which lack words to be described and defined.
A look of compassion for all those who are suffering due to bad governance, the internal and external displaced people due to war, the families who lost their children in peaceful marches lawless forces of law, the families who do not know how to send their children to school, the sick who die in the house or hospital due to lack of proper care. In short word, a compassionate look at the Congolese tragedy.
Look of hope because more and more, there are the glimmers of hope raised by the citizen movements, the church, which mobilise the people to take their destiny in hand, look of hope because I believe that no matter how long the night may be, the sun will rise again; and this sunshine will be the sunshine of “JUSTICE, PEACE, PROSPERUOUS AND OF MERITS” sunshine that will promotes the Congolese, it will be the sunshine of hope forever, we will regain our dignity as the great Patrice Lumumba said “ without dignity there is no liberty, without justice there is no dignity, and without independence there are no free me”
If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self?
oh I have so many I would tell her (laugh)
I would tell her not to believe an answer is better than a question, also tell her to understand more about the language of patience, advise her to remember that, it is ok to make mistakes because everyone fails big before they make it big. I would tell her to chase her passion and what she believes in relentlessly and to not be afraid to ask lots of questions.
How can people interested to connect with you reach you?
“Democratic Republic of Congo is the land of our ancestors, it is our land today, tomorrow will be the land of our children’s children.
So, it’s a legacy; and we only have that as a homeland that defines our identity as a distinct people in the world.
It is incumbent upon us to preserve it against any destabilisation on any point of view.
So, my gaze on Congo is a look of: “Pain, Compassion and Hope”
— Francine Mukwaya Sodi
“The people have demonstrated that the power is in their hands and not the politicians.
The battle is not for or against one law or the other but rather for a new Congo, a Congo where the interests of the people are prioritized and protected by their leaders.
Our fight is to have a say in the decision-making process in our country, and ultimately control and determine the affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
— Francine Mukwaya Sodi