Ranked the fifth best female boxer in the world, Congestina Achieng made Kenya proud when she became the first African woman to hold an international professional boxing title by beating Ugandan Fiona Tugume to take the vacant World International Boxing Federation (WIBF) Middleweight title in 2004.
She was at the peak of her boxing career then and her dream was to fight Laila Ali, Mohammed Ali’s daughter, some day. Her boxing achievements earned her a celebrity status in the country and she even made appearances in local TV dramas like Wash& Set on NTV. Sadly however, Congestina Achieng is currently a shadow of her former self.
THE “HANDS OF STONE” LOST IN A WORLD OF HER OWN
Sometime last year, word on the street had it that Congestina, “the hands of stone” as commonly referred to by her fans, was indulging in drugs, so when she ended up at the Mathari Mental Hospital in Nairobi in January the same year, speculations were high that her condition was a result of substance abuse even though doctors attending to her sighted depression.
It’s alleged that Congestina had sold all her properties and trophies and started being violent with people around her prior to being checked in the mental institution. She was discharged after two weeks and her story was overtaken by events and forgotten all together.
Two days ago a disturbing video by KISS TV showed how the former boxer is in a sorry state. Besides living in abject poverty, Congestina appeared to be mentally challenged, losing concentration during the course of the interview seemingly in a world of her own whilst she played with the boxing belts she has in her possession, apparently the only items left that she can show of her career in boxing.
KENYANS FOR CONJESTINA
Just minutes after the video went viral Kenyans came out in scores expressing their sympathy for Congestina and disappointment with the government for neglecting our sportsmen and women, just about the only people who have time and again managed to sell the country globally by doing what they know best.
Facebook groups were formed in a very short span of time in support of the distressed boxer and top celebrities were in the forefront of offers to assist her.
Popular comedian Daniel Ndambuki, aka ‘Churchill’, was the first one to offer his helping hand by pledging to pay Congestina’s rent for a whole year. Another secular artist Nonini, volunteered to clear the former boxer’s fourth-month rent arrears which according to sources risked her being evicted from her singe room house in Nairobi’s Lucky Summer Estate. And Ida Odinga, the Prime Minister’s wife, also paid Conjestina a visit, offered her financial assistance and convinced her to seek medical help.
FACEBOOK CAMPAIGN – SH100,000 RAISED IN ONE DAY
The first Facebook group to be formed went by the name, ‘IF THE GOVERNMENT WILL NOT HELP CONJE, WE WILL’ and has received 9,482 ‘likes’ so far. This was quickly followed by “KENYANS FOR CONJESTINA’.
Over Sh100, 0000 was raised in less than 24 hours and the Kenyan woman with hands of stone has now been re-admitted to hospital where her condition is being monitored.
KENYA’S NEGLECTED HEROES
The Kenyan Forum wishes Congestina Achieng a speedy recovery.
This Forum correspondent cannot help but wonder, however, why the government neglects sportsmen who once did the Kenya proud. Conjestina’s case is not the first and we can be certain that it won’t be the last.
Kennedy Ochieng, who was one of Kenya’s best sprinters, committed suicide a few years back after suffering depression for a long time. Philip Waruinge, Kenya’s first boxing medalist in the Olympic Games in 1968 and also the winner of the Val Baker Trophy is long forgotten after he lost his sight and his career came to an end.
Although it takes a personal effort for a person to direct his or her life in the right direction, we all need a support system in the event that our life hits troubled times.
Kenyans have once again shown that they can unite and support a brother or sister, just like they did last year in support of fellow countrymen who were dying of starvation in the North Eastern region, when our MPs were busy discussing their pay rise (coincidentally, they were at it again this week) in the campaign dubbed “KENYANS FOR KENYA”.
Clearly, the phrase “Tunaomba serikali isaidie”/ “We plead with the government to assist” has somehow been dropped and for this we give the thumbs up to fellow Kenyans with the hope that the same unity will prevail in the forthcoming elections.