Lokassa ya Mbongo: the family’s pain while the Congolese star remains unburied for seven months

by MMC
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  • By Emery Makumeno and Wycliffe Muia
  • BBC News, Kinshasa and Nairobi

Image source, Getty Images

The family of legendary Congolese guitarist Lokassa ya Mbongo says they are experiencing “unbearable pain” and “humiliation” as they wait for government help to bury him nearly seven months after his death.

Lokassa’s body lies in a morgue in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, after being flown back from the United States in accordance with his wish to be buried in his home country.

His son André Marie Lokassa told the BBC that the government had promised to help organize a funeral “worthy” of the music star’s name, but has so far failed to do so.

A local artists’ charity, however, said conflicts within the family were to blame for the delay.

A communications manager at the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage, Magloire Paluku, declined to comment when contacted by the BBC, referring questions to the family.

Mr Lokassa told the BBC that the family had submitted a $75,000 (£61,000) budget request to the government for funeral costs, but it has not yet been approved, leaving the family in the lurch. vague.

“It’s a humiliation, if we have to call it that,” Mr. Lokassa said, adding that the delay was causing tension within the family.

With the morgue bill having already exceeded $4,000, the family hopes to bury their father by mid-October, even if government aid does not arrive, Mr. Lokassa said.

“If things continue to drag on, we will be forced to implement plan B,” he added.

Lokassa ya Mbongo, real name Denis Kasiya Lokassa, died at the age of 77 after battling diabetes and complications from a mild stroke he suffered in 2020.

He was one of DR Congo’s finest rhythm guitarists, but spent most of his career in the French capital of Paris, where he led the band Soukous Stars since 1984.

He then joined forces with singer Sam Mangwana in Ivory Coast to form the group African All Stars.

The guitarist is remembered for popular compositions such as Bonne Annee, Monica, Marie-Josse, Lagos Night and Nairobi Night.

He moved to the United States in 1996, where he lived until his death in March. His body was flown to DR Congo the following month.

Image source, André-Marie Lokassa

Legend,

André Marie Lokassa says he wants to offer his father a funeral worthy of his stature

However, Artist in Danger, a charity group of artists from the Democratic Republic of Congo, suggested that the government was not responsible for the delay in the funeral, but that it was due to differences within the musician’s family over about who should conduct the funeral.

The group’s leader, Tsaka Kongo, told the BBC the family had to present a letter to authorities agreeing to end their differences and allow the government to organize the burial.

“I contacted Lokassa’s family to help them speed up the funeral process but they wanted to proceed alone, which I agreed to. The delay (of the burial) is shocking, my wish is that a solution is found as quickly as possible,” Mr. Kongo said.

In April, the body of another well-known Congolese musician, Saak Sinatra Sakul, was flown from Paris to Kinshasa for burial.

The family hoped to get government help with his funeral, but his relatives later buried him themselves, fearing his body would decompose as it would have been kept in a coffin rather than a morgue drawer for about 10 days.

Sakul was a member of the Kinshasa-based group, Orchester Sosoliso Trio Madjesi.

Other Congolese musicians have also been waiting for months to be buried after their death. These include composer and saxophonist Kiamuangana Mateta Verckys, who died in October last year and was buried in December, and jazz star Lutumba Simaro Masiya, who died in March 2019 and was only buried in May of the same year.

Lokassa’s niece, Nicole Londala, also blamed the government for the delay, saying it had yet to fulfill its promise to fund the burial.

“Initially we were hoping that the funeral could be held in five or ten days. It is painful that since April 15 we are still waiting for the funeral to take place,” Ms Londala told the BBC.

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