Beyond hot debates regarding elections, dialogue, presidential candidates as well as US sanctions, the blogger has mostly been interested in what can bring the stability of the Congo, especially its Eastern part. Though politics tries always to embark our minds, nothing ensures that stability emerges only through these debates. The socio-cultural and political context of the Eastern Congo led Makarobondo, nicknamed “Dee” to undertake a long journey till the United States of America. The latter participated during the Olympic games of RIO2016 along with Alice Kamuchanga Beatrice (right at the title picture picture); both form the North-Kivu Province. Anyone familiar with the region has in mind what the conflict-prone region and its consequences on the future of our generations. The experience to be shared recalled on the relevance of establishing an attractive environment that would help the youth to expand and see their dreams realized. Mr Dee as you will see, despite his potential capacities, he emerged out of an exile process maybe because he wouldn’t meet these opportunities in Kirotshe. I may be wrong. However, we came across an experience that can infer on what would have happened to this runner.
The blog met him through a kind of interview in order to share his experience on the athleticism journey via refugee camp. Below are his views: Background
The athlete is known as Makorobondo Dieu-Merci Kamongwa Salukombo aka “Dee” (the first at the left of the picture). He has roughly 28 years and he lives in Ohio, US. With a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry and French Minor, Dee is from the North-Kivu, single and yet engaged.
- What was your last experience in RIO2016?
First, I am thankful to our Country the D.R. Congo, the Congo Olympic Committee and the Congo Athletic League for giving us an opportunity to represent our nation in Rio de Janeiro. I had a positive and negative experience in Rio. For the positive, it was great to meet all the great athletes and be able to live with them. It gave me courage and hope that one day if we keep working hard and believing, we will get our first Olympic medal for the Congo. For the negative side, our country has so much it has to do for its athletes, especially when it comes to a big event like this. We had many road blocks that I hope with time we will be able to say all the details openly. But in short, our country has to have a four or two-year plan for its selected athletes to properly prepare for big events like the Olympics.
- What’s your future plan in 2016-2017?
My future plan for 2016-2020 is to
- Try to build a running center by July 2018 (to properly prepare for 2020)
- Try to build a library/learning center by 2020.
- Keep paying academic fees for an average of 50 student athletes in Kirotshe/Goma area.
- Keep improving and helping improve runners of Congo especially in Kirotshe.
For 2017, they have the Jeux Francophonie in Ivory Coast in end of July and I want to compete for a medal. (Other countries are already preparing but for Congo, nothing yet! And then they will expect a medal!).
- When and how did you start athleticism?
I initially started athleticism when I was in Uganda as a refugee. I ran for my school teams at Valerian and Saint Peters Primary schools. In Uganda I was forced as all the boys were required to participate. When I arrived in the United States, I took on soccer as I am a decent player, but one day at practice, the running team was practicing on our field and I was running faster than them so the Coach of the running team wanted me to join the running team and I am glad I did.
- What were your motivations to undertake athleticism?
At first, it was to help my school team so we can win trophies and championships. But now, I keep running to hopefully make a difference in my home village Kirotshe and hopefully in the whole nation one day.
- Can you briefly describe your home address in Congo and the way it supported your career? I mean environmental conditions, sport facilities, …
I love Kirotshe not only because I was born there and over the last 4 years I have grown very attached and become personally attached to it, but also because it is one of the best places for training in the whole world. The altitude, dirt roads, mountains, fresh food all adds to the recipe to succeed in athletism, especially long distance events. There are so much we lack in terms of a training center, but we have all the basics.
- When and how did you go to America?
I went to the United States in June 2004. I lived in Uganda for 3 years as a refugee before my family was accepted to Cleveland, Ohio through the Cleveland Catholic Charities and the UNHCR.
- How do you support athleticism in North-Kivu?
Athletism helped me so much in USA. It opened so many doors in meeting amazing friends, being part of an organized team, learning to solve our issues and conflicts while aiming for the same goal. Due to running and academics, I had almost a full ride to Denison University where I received a scholarship for almost $50,000/year for 4 years. So for me, athletics has given me an education and the life and successes I currently have. I am trying to do the same thing in North-Kivu and in Kirotshe specifically. I want to use running to give student athletes a chance for an education. I want to use athletics to create a team, a community of athletes and to see athletism help young people as it has helped me. Since 2012, our goal was at least one of us to make it to Rio 2016. Beatrice and I made it, so for us, our goal was achieved. Since 2012, we put over 100 kids through school, last year we paid tuition for 53 students in Kirotshe! So for me, I am linking athletism and education to help the youth of North-Kivu. This year, we will support 4 students, 3 from Kirotshe and 1 from the whole Province of North-Kivu who had the highest percentage on their diplome d’etat in the university level. As much as I love athletism and I want the youth of North-Kivu to be the very best in the country and in the world, educating our youth is also very important. I am just using athletics to do that.
- What is the Provincial Government did you ever have in your initiative?
Honestly, we have been able to do all of this only through friends. The national or provincial government hasn’t done anything for us. We do our best to inform them but they tend to not listen to us.
- Is Beatrice Kamuchanga Alice one the people you support in North Kivu? Can you tell readers more about this young lady?
Beatrice is among the athletes I support in Kirotshe. She started with the team in 2012 and she is among the few who have stayed even after the hard times we went through. I know most people now have a bad image of the running of Kirotshe because everyone was expecting a medal. And I am sure for Beatrice being last, people don’t even want to hear anything, especially in Congo. But let me tell you a little bit about Beatrice. She ran very poorly in Rio. She ran very bad and we can all admit it. But you have to ask why? Imagine someone who ran 21km in 1hr18min29sec which is 3mins43sec per kilometer, and then she runs 5km in 19mins29secs which is 3mins53secs per kilometer, does it make sense? The answer is no. But as I said before, there are things we are not allowed to say here that hopefully we will later but we have to get better as a country in terms of properly planning and preparing our athletes. Beatrice was not capable of winning a medal is Rio, but she was definitely capable of running a lot better and representing her country very well. Rio was just part of her growth and she will be back. (In my case, I qualified on May 31st, less than 3 months before the competition. But in short, I was ranked to finish 152nd out of 155 runners, and I finished 113th! Was I a medal contender? The answer is no. I didn’t run a faster time than my qualifying time, but I beat 40 runners who were supposed to beat me, so in my book, I did well).
- What can you advice to young people in DRC willing to undertake athleticism career?
I will advise them to take it up with a solid reason. In other countries, athletism starts in primary school and goes through secondary school and through college like here in the USA. So by the time you finish school, you know for sure where you stand. For us in Congo, we don’t have that and it makes it so hard for people to start athletism. I hope the government will find a way to put different sports as a mandatory activity for the students. My advice is to start and don’t give up. My hope with a running center is to put all the good athletes in the camp and give them a good training environment for them to fully grow. If you think athletism is for you, start and then if you are really good, get in contact with me and I am willing to help the best I can. Have a long term vision and work slowly towards it. If it’s the Olympics, then give yourself years of preparation. In Congo, all you need is the qualifying standard.
- What challenges do you think they will encounter all along their career so that they can be prepared?
Equipment is very scarce in Congo. So use what you have. There are no competitions where athletes can make money. So most athletes are very poor due to lack of competitions.
- Did you have directly experienced the recurring rebellion in North-Kivu? What’s your advice to youth who still think to join rebellions or militias?
War sucks. The people who suffer most during the war are the innocent Congolese. I will encourage the youth to put their energy in sports instead of rebellions. If we need our country to get better and people to heal, we need peace. Let’s all of us work for peace.
- What’s your Congolese preferred meal? Any Congolese musician do you like?
Rice and sombe (or any other legumes but mainly sombe!).
Currently, Moise Mbiya tops my list!
- What do you refer to if someone says North-Kivu? What comes first in your mind?
- How can people follow you? Twitter/Facebook, Instagram…
Makorobondo Salukombo on facebook and Instagram, Project Kirotshe on twitter (I am more a Facebook guy than the others).
- Something else important you can add?
Praying for Peace, Unity and Prosperity in the DR Congo. Nothing good comes easy!
PLZ share as you appreciate
NTANYOMA R. Delphin
Secrétaire Exécutif & Coordonnateur
Appui au Développement Intégré &
à la Gouvernance