Congolese motivational speaker came face to face with armed rebel soldiers; at gunpoint he uttered his final prayers
Syaviha Mulengya is a DRC national who was forced to flee his country because of ethnic violence. Now an author, he shares with The Nairobian how he overcame tragedies to complete university and lead a complete life in Kenya.
Tell us a bit about your background..
I am the last born in family of 10 children. My struggles started at my birth, which was very complicated. I was born at home and the midwife came late. I did not cry, and they tried beating me but I could not. I was born tired and sick. Many knew that I was not going to survive. Every day the villagers were waiting for my death. My mother was a woman of faith. She prayed fervently. My health was not improving but my mother did not lose hope.
How would you describe your childhood?
It was tough. When I turned five years old, my father was attacked by a leopard because we lived near the forest. In the process of trying to kill it, the leopard gouged out one of my father’s eyes. He was seriously injured and many people thought he would not make it. We lived in a very remote area; there were no roads, so they had to take the Lake Victoria route. They took a boat to another town called Vuholu to connect to Kyondo where he was treated.
My father was in the hospital for two long years. I was left in the village with my sister and it was depressing. We left Kyondo and moved to Butembo. We could not go back to the village because there were no hospitals and my father needed medical attention. Finally, we settled in Butembo, where I completed my primary education.
At what point did you decide to relocate to Kenya?
My parents used to listen to KBC Swahili Service and I would often tell my father that one day I would go to Kenya. Whenever I said this, he would tell me that God was going to make a way for me. Ever since childhood, Kenya was my dream country. For us, Kenya was like America. When I completed my six years in primary school, I relocated to Bunia where one of my brother was staying.
What happened in Bunia?
I was enrolled in a secondary school and passed with flying colours, even though I was struggling with school fees. I ended up becoming a preacher. Unfortunately, tribal clashes started in Bunia and many people were killed. My tribe, the Nande, was the main target. I received death threats countless times. I actually did a movie titled Vita ni Mubaya (War is bad).
How did you cope during the clashes?
In Bunia, life became increasingly tough. The soldiers were looking for rebels and young people were killed because they were suspected to be rebels. Whenever they found one, they would blow off their heads. One day, I met these soldiers and they interrogated me mercilessly. They told me to say my final prayer. In my prayer, I asked God to bless and protect the soldiers as they went on looking for the rebels. When they heard my prayer, they decided to spare my life. They said my God had saved me.
Was it not possible to take refuge at home?
It was risky! One time a bomb was thrown near our house and luckily, I survived the unexpected ordeal. Many people lost their lives and dead bodies were scattered everywhere. After several attacks in Bunia, I decided to run for my dear life having cheated death on several occasions.
How did you come to Kenya?
When the situation got out of hand, I realised that I had to save my life. I boarded a lorry and it took about one week on the road before reaching Kenya. I didn’t know anyone and I was left stranded in a guest house at Mlolongo. I didn’t know how to speak English or Kiswahili. The lorry driver pitied me and called one his friends, who came to pick me from the guest house. He took me to Africa Inland Church in Athi River to seek refuge, and the pastor there gave me a warm welcome. After a few months, I was told to leave the church even though I had no idea where I would go.
I spent the nights on a balcony near the church. One morning, a Congolese family that was passing by saw me sleeping on the balcony and hosted me in their house for a few weeks. I was offered a very small room where I slept on the floor. Later, they turned against me and threatened to forcibly put me in a lorry back home. So, I quickly left because I never wanted to go back to Congo.
How did your life take a turn for the better?
A friend helped me to apply for a scholarship at Daystar University and I thank my lucky stars because I was selected. In my second year of study, I got news that my mother had died after being poisoned. I was not able to travel to Congo to bury her. When I was in my third year, more sad news came calling; my father had also passed away. I completed my degree after eight years.
What are you doing currently?
I am an author, mentor and motivational speaker. I have written about 15 books, including Men are Crying and Women are Weeping, and Bright Future, Dont Give Up. My aim is to share a message of hope and harmony.