“Mama” is her
nickname or bosom name. She is my mom’s sister. As I get off the Land Cruiser,
I take the first look and see her sitting in the verandah at my sister’s house.
I quickly recognize her. I see my mom in her. From the distance, I yell:
replies. “Baba, I am very pleased to see you, she adds."
I am excited to see
you too, I answer. We hug each other and hug again. How many years has it been
since I saw you last? Twenty?, I said.
After a quick
check, I recall that it was in 1992 when I saw mama last, at her house, at Musonoi, a
Gecamines workers’ camp. The Gecamines is, used to be, one of the largest state
mining company. Seventeen years to be precise. I believe it was on August 22nd, as I remember to have left the city of Kolwezi on August 23rd and
have not returned since.
Mama has been in
Lubumbashi for the last 8 months, coming from Mbuji Mayi. She came for work.
She has become a house keeper. She cleans clothes and takes care of the house.
The hard skin in her hands reflects the manual work she has been doing.
However, her sense of humor reminds me of my mom, trying to take things from a
Mama, like many, is
a displaced person. She has been on the run for the last 17 years. She has gone
from Musonoi in the Katanga province, to Mbuji-Mayi in the Kasai Oriental province,
to Lobo, her village of origin where she has never been before. She also lived
in village of Lwanga, her mom’s village.
“Life has been very
hard” , she states. “I have gone from Musonoi 17 years ago, where things were
quite stable, to a life of a begger, a displaced person and a farmer. I had 10
children and have lost 5, most of whom boys", she concludes.
I have about 10
aunts and uncles on each side of my dad’s and mom’s family. Each family had
lost up to half of its original size during the ethnic cleansing of the 1990’s.
That is a different account.
Mama is an example
of the survivors. She is a widow and has been struggling to make it. Her
husband, George was a dump truck (Lectra Hall and Hal Pak trucks) driver at
Gecamines many years ago. I am proud of mama.
Mama recalls when
she learned about my mom’s death in 1996, then my dad’s in 2006. She recalls when my mom visited her in Kabinda in the Kasai Oriental province, my mom was already sick, but she was proud
to see mama’s children. Then she exclaimed:
"I have seen almost all your
children, except Dofi. Where is he?"
Knowing that my mom was sick and frail,
Mama did not want to tell her that Dofi had passed away, but at this point, had to.
My mom cried over the death of her nephew.
Mama recalls that
my dad was a working machine. As soon as he came to the village of Lobo, he
built a house, a big house by local standard; a townhouse by the rural
standard. Mama said my dad even organized sports activities and coached soccer.
Hum, that sounds familiar. Mama had admiration for her brother in-law.
“You know how he
was” She says.
“Yes, I do” I
I was very
emotional at this point. I remember now that my dad built a house everywhere he
lived. He built one in Kolwezi, where he lived for nearly 30 years. He built
another one in the village of Lwanga where he ended up after being displaced from
the Katanga province. Then, my dad came to Lubumbashi and built the third house.
I thought Mama paid
a great tribute to my dad, who amongst the things he told me, he never mention that he organized soccer in rural areas where he sojourned.