Mathy Lisika Minsende, born in the Congo in 1980, came to London with her mother at the age of 10 after having previously lived in Belgium and France. She and her mother returned to the Congo at the age of 14 where her father was a Colonel in the military of Mobutu’s government. After 2 and a half years Mathy went with her brother and cousins to stay with her uncle and wife in South Africa.
At the age of 3 Mathy left the Congo to live with an aunt and uncle in Belgium. After a few months she went to live with relatives in France where she stayed with her older sister and several cousins. Her father and mother travelled extensively as they were both entrepeneurs. Her father was also a Colonel in Mobutu’s government. Mathy enjoyed her life in France. She saw her father at least six times a year and her mother for many months at a time. At the age of 10 Mathy went to live with her mother in England while her sister, some years older, stayed in France. Her parents were separating.
At first Mathy and her mother moved to Enfield, north London and then to south London. She was impressed with the multi-racial backgrounds of the boys in London but experienced more racism than she had in France. She had to move from Lilian Baylis School in Lambeth to Pimlico School in Victoria because of the bullying and violence at that time.
At the age of 14 Mathy and her mother, who thought her daughter needed a firmer hand, moved back to the Congo. Mathy father’s was delighted to be near his daughter. He showered her with expensive gifts and even bought the 14 year old Mathy a car. For Mathy the most important thing was to spend more quality time with her father.
Mathy went to an American school with the children of expats and the country’s elite. When Mathy was 16 rebels, opposed to Mobutu’s government, marched on the capital. Mathy, siblings from her father’s other marriages and cousins, left in a speedboat for Brazzaville, Congo, within earshot of the guns in Kinshasa. After a few days the children went to Johannesburg, South Africa to stay with Mathy’s uncle, the Congo Ambassador and his wife. Mathy did not know what had happened to her mother. Six months later she found out that she had gone into hiding in the Congo.
At the age of 19, having passed 12 A Levels within the South African education system Mathy went to France and then to England to stay with an uncle on her mother’s side. She did not want to go and live in USA with her father, new wife and children. The overthrowing of Mobutu’s rule affected Mathy deeply. It was two and a half years before she saw her father and 10 years before she saw her mother who eventually came to see Mathy in London. In England Mathy found she had a skill working as a coach and mentor. She helped people with disabilities and unemployed young people to find work. Mathy has recently moved back to France but some day would like to go back to the Congo to open up opportunities for young people.
“They could leave me in the desert and I’ll figure myself out.”
“My home is where I feel comfortable”