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Couple who escaped murder attempts in Africa start op shop, church in Murray Bridge
Luc and Delice Mulimbalimba fled the Democratic Republic of Congo after three attempts on his life and have started a new life in the Murraylands.
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New Murray Bridge residents Luc and Delice Mulimbalimba have just opened an op shop and a church, the Spring of Life Mission Centre, in Murray Bridge.
Both of these things may never have happened had the husband, Dr Mulimbalimba, not avoided being murdered at least three times.
The honorable Dr Luc Mulimbalimba was a popularly elected MP in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
But his popular appeal didn’t sit well with other Congo politicians, who – in his wife’s words – felt threatened by someone actually wanting to help his electorate.
Ms Mulimbalimba, who runs the new Light and Development op shop in Bridge Street to raise money for the disadvantaged in the DRC, said politicians there had organised to kill her husband.
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“My husband is a member of parliament,” she said.
“We were living in Kenya, and we saw the people in Congo were suffering so much, with the war and everything, so we decided to go back to Congo in 2009 and start mission work.
“So we went there, started making bricks, construction, putting the community together – we constructed a hospital first, we started treating women who had a fistula as a result of rape, and we started taking in the children.”
Ms Mulimbalimba said that most people appreciated what she and her husband were doing, but DRC politicians felt that they would be replaced by the new MP, who was voted in by a record number of votes.
“In 2011, before the election, people came to attack us at our home,” she said.
“But before they could get to us, one of the generals was coming, sending police in.
“My husband didn’t hear, but I was the one who was hearing all the gunshots in the house.”
The second murder attempt drew blood.
“So, the second time, my husband had gone to speak to the radio station,” Ms Mulimbalimba said.
“I was not home, but when my husband was coming back home, there were some people who’d been at home, people he doesn’t know, looking for him – and they even cut one of the guard’s ear.”
During the third – and most dramatic – attack, the Mulimbalimbas and their children were living in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, and Dr Mulimbalimba was in another city, Uvira, walking along the road among the people.
“He didn’t know there were a group of rebels to assassinate him,” Ms Mulimbalimba said.
“A group from nowhere came out against him, one with a machete, aiming for his neck, but his brother saw that and put his hands in front, so the machete went through the brother’s hand and cut his hand off.
“They sent for cars, so a car came, and then got him and the brother, and they had to drive during the night to another city about 500 kilometres away.”
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Although the brother survived the vicious attack, Ms Mulimbalimba said that he had been murdered earlier this year.
“He passed on January this year from poison – from the same people – and he was the third in Luc’s family, because when we came to Australia in 2020, we just escaped; they killed my father-in-law, and last year they killed Luc’s elder brother,” she said.
When Dr and Ms Mulimbalimba went to the authorities in in a military court in Congo to complain about the three murder attempts, an official said to her husband, “I’m putting you under house arrest.”
“My husband was under house arrest for two weeks, with over 20 soldiers guarding the home with AK-47s,” Ms Mulimbalimba said.
According to Ms Mulimbalimba, the authorities intended to take Dr Mulimbalimba back to Uvira, but someone he knew said that the doctor would be killed there either by poison or gunshot and make it look like an accident.
The Mulimbalimbas form a plan
To escape the next murder attempt, the couple came up with the idea of bribing the soldiers at their house.
“So, we bought lots of beer and lots of roasted meat and said, ‘You have a feast because maybe tomorrow you’ll be going’,” Ms Mulimbalimba said.
“They drunk and drunk and drunk, and they started sleeping, so one of our guards, together with Luc, jumped over the fence.
“They fell into the neighbour’s compound, and the neighbours were very good – they never said anything.”
Dr Mulimbalimba managed to leave Congo, crossing by boat to a neighbouring country.
After her husband escaped his house arrest, Mrs Mulimbalimba pretended she didn’t know where he’d gone, but she was arrested nevertheless.
“I was put in handcuffs and thrown into a vehicle, and they woke up the kids at almost three in the morning, but the good thing was the children didn’t know where Luc was,” she said.
“They go to the neighbours, who said they haven’t seen anyone.”
Mrs Mulimbalimba was taken to jail for over 48 hours before being released at midnight.
She walked 30km back to her children and later wrote to the Australian ambassador to Congo about the whole situation; the ambassador told her, “You need to leave that country”.
Mrs Mulimbalimba and her children escaped to Kenya, and then the whole family moved to Australia, living in Perth and Adelaide before starting their new life in Murray Bridge.
New op shop and church are now open
The Malimbalimbas still travel to Africa from time to time to continue the work of their parent organisation, the Mission in Health Care and Development, which operates more than 30 churches in Africa.
The Murray Bridge church that the Malimbalimbas started, the Spring of Life Mission Centre, assembles at the Murray Bridge Uniting Church Hall at 1pm on Sundays; and the Light and Development op shop is at 16 Bridge Street.
Ms Malimbalimba said that the point of the op shop was to raise funds to continue helping people in Africa.
“We are sending containers to Africa, putting clothes in, medical materials and so on, because from when we started in Congo in 2009 up to now, we have three hospitals, we have a school with over 1200 children, we have micro-financing projects there, and we also have a radio station,” she said.
“Before COVID it cost around $6000, $7000 to send containers over there, but now it’s about $17,000, so we thought we’d sell some of the clothes that we were sending and just send that money over instead … so that’s why we started this op shop.
“Most of the arts here are made by the women we have at the mission – they’re the most vulnerable because Congo is a country that has gone through so much war, and most of the men were killed and the women raped, so we have lots of widows, lots of orphans there.”
More information: Visit mhcdasa.org.au; visit the op shop at 16 Bridge Street from 9am-4pm on weekdays or 9am-1pm on Saturdays; or attend a service at Murray Bridge Uniting Church at 1pm on Sundays.