I’m the happiest man in the Canadian Forces, because I’m living my dream.
I am Master Seaman Lokombe. I am a steward and have been working for Admiral Baines for the past two years.
It all started in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I was around 13 or 14 years old. While studying world geography, I discovered the geography, history and policy of Canada. The Canadian Armed Forces, their reputation during those years, in the 1990s. The peacekeeping army, the Canadian peacekeepers, when they arrived somewhere, they arrived there not to fight, but to help to restore peace. They went there to rebuild and to bring back hope. These images stayed in my head during my youth.
After my youth, I grew up and went to university, and I did what I had to do, communications. I started working. But unfortunately, in my country, communication or opinion is not always welcome with leaders. You are not free to voice your opinion, as we are here in Canada. And that caused problems for me, and I was forced to quickly leave Congo.
I found myself in Zimbabwe, and at the time in that country, President Mugabe was cooperating fully with President Kabila in Congo, so I was arrested. For the same problem that forced me to flee Congo, I was arrested in Zimbabwe. That’s how I found myself in a refugee camp where you had no right to anything, for practically four months, and then I was finally arrested. When I was arrested, I was imprisoned. I knew no one in that country apart from a few people with whom I had spent time in the refugee camp. You are out of your element, you know no one. You find yourself in a big prison, where it is practically hell. And after four months, I refused to eat. I started a hunger strike, and the last hunger strike I did took six days. After six days, because I was ready to leave, I was ready to die. In prison, I received a visit from the representative for the High Commissioner for Refugees who came to see me, and right away he contacted several embassies to try to see if someone could help me. Canada’s embassy was the first one that responded. As soon as Canada took on the file, they told me that they would get me out of there, and hope returned. Psychologically, I started to live again, until I was released from prison on 27 August 2001.
Canada brought me back from death, I am living a second life here. Today, the thing I’m most proud of is that I wear Canada’s flag. I am much happier with my life than if I were just working. So it is not simply serving the armed forces, but serving Canada through the armed forces.