Brave Mother Reunited With Children
Date posted: 20 December 2010
A mother of four who fled Africa for England after the suspicious death of her husband - believing her own life was also in danger - will mark her first Christmas with her children in nine years.
But Albertine 'Betty' Phoba's happiness at being reunited with son Nabab, 14, and daughters Altesse, 17, Henrial, 16, and Ahn, ten, during the festive season will be tempered by sadness - as December also marks the ninth anniversary of her husband, Morro Mwamba Wa Ba Mulamba's, death.
A crusading journalist and human rights activist in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mr Mulamba died in December 2001 aged 38.
Mrs Phoba, 40, had received an odd telephone call telling her to come to the centre of town urgently. Whilst en route she learned he was actually dead.
To this day his wife believes he was murdered. There was confusion surrounding the exact cause of Mr Mulamba's death, and his campaigning for greater freedoms had brought him into conflict with DRC authorities and even seen him arrested.
Nine months after his death Mrs Phoba had to flee her home in Kinshasa, the DRC capital, when she became convinced her life was also in danger. She left her children in the care of family, knowing they would be safe without her, and sought asylum in the UK.
In her eight years here she has learnt the language, gained qualifications in English and Maths, become one of the community leaders for the 200-strong Congolese community in Derby, gained a job working with the University of Derby's Community Relations team - and been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK by the Home Office.
This Christmas will be the first she has spent with her four children since she fled the DRC, after they too were recently granted leave to come to the UK.
Mrs Phoba, who now lives in Alvaston, said: "When I came to this country I spoke very little English but I was determined to learn the language because I wanted to speak for myself.
"As an asylum seeker you are not really given a choice which town you are 'dispersed' to. I don't have any relations in England but luckily when I came to Derby I found people here who I had known in the Democratic Republic of Congo."
Her children are now improving their English and studying in Derby. Mrs Phoba's eldest daughters, Altesse and Henrial, are at Derby College, and son Nabab recently completed a language course and will take up a place at Littleover Community School in January.
"Of course, I am so happy to be reunited with my children but December is a very difficult time of year, as it marks the anniversary of Morro's death. I would like to think that next year I will be able to do something to mark the fact that it is ten years since he died," added Mrs Phoba.
Peter Walker, Community Relations Officer at the University of Derby, has known and worked with Mrs Phoba since shortly after she came to the UK.
He said: "Betty is one of the strongest people I know. From the tragedy of her husband's death and being forced to flee her own country she has built a new life for herself, and now for her children. She is truly an inspiration."
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