March 18, 2024



Love for English landed Congolese national at UCU

By Kefa Senoga
When Micheline Ugara Mazo arrived in Uganda more than six years ago, all she wanted was to pursue a university education. She did not care what course she studied. To get herself ready for education in Uganda, Ugara Mazo, a native of he Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),  took lessons in English for more than eight months.

She chose to undergo English lessons because, apart from admiring the language, she did not know much about it. People in her home country speak French as their official language. It is also the language of instruction for students in schools.

“I loved English so much,” she said. “Sometimes I would get newspapers published in the English language and try to read them, but I would hardly understand anything. That experience stuck in my mind that I had to learn the language.”

She says she felt that after exclusively studying French for most of her life in the DRC, it was time for her to immerse herself in an English-speaking society.

However, before Ugara Mazo came to Uganda to pursue her studies, she had to endure a two-year stay at home because she and her father could not agree on where she would go. Her father, Chrysostom Nyelegodi Azangi, wanted her to enroll at Kinshasa University, in the DRC, while Ugara Mazo preferred Uganda. To demonstrate her resolve and in the midst of conflict in the Congo, she started a fish trading business for the two years she was at home.

For years, the DRC has experienced violence involving militant groups over territory and natural resources. In addition to mounting civilian deaths in eastern Congo, the UN declares that the number of internally displaced people has reached a record high of 6.9 million as fighting, rendering  a growing part of the country unsafe for civilians.

Azangi eventually gave in and let his daughter have her wish to leave the conflict-ridden area. 

Ugara Mazo’s academic choices at UCU

Upon reaching Uganda Christian University (UCU) in 2017, Ugara Mazo met the Rev. Samson Maliisa, the assistant chaplain at the institution, who helped to guide her on the course to pursue. 

“He gave me two options — either Bachelor of Governance and International Relations or Bachelor of Human Rights, Peace and Humanitarian Interventions. I chose the latter,” she recalls. 

Ugara Mazo says her motivation to pursue a course in human rights came from the fact that she had witnessed many cases of human rights violations in the Congo. 

“In some parts of my country, people are constantly running from conflict, fleeing from war-affected areas,” Ugara Mazo says. 

The DDR has faced decades of war, largely between government forces and rebels, especially in the eastern part of the country. 

It is for that reason that in 2021, even after completing her undergraduate course, Ugara Mazo chose to further her stay in Uganda by enrolling for a master’s course.

“There was the Covid-19 pandemic and war at the same time back at home, so I decided to stay and study further,” she says, explaining how her father tried to resist her continued stay to study in Uganda. 

“My father said he didn’t have the money to pay my tuition, but I persisted, and enrolled for the master’s course, believing that God would make a way,” she said.

The gold trading business of Azangi in Ituri province, DRC, had suffered significant setbacks due to the war. Initially, the father faced financial constraints and, as a result, he was not sure he could fund her course, the Master of Research and Public Policy. However, he later secured the necessary funds, enabling him to pay her tuition. Ugara Mazo is now finalizing her master’s research.

Her topic  is the “Effect of Armed Conflict on the Implementation of Gold Exploitation Policy in Ituri, DRC.” She says it was born out of the need to gain more knowledge on the cause of the war in eastern DR Congo so she could detail the effect the war has had on one of the economic activities in the region — gold mining.

Incidentally, Ugara Mazo has had one of her sisters, Iyekane Elizabeth Yamba, follow her to pursue an undergraduate course at UCU. Yamba recently graduated with a Bachelor of Procurement Logistics and Management and returned to DR Congo. She expects two other siblings, Miriam Eri Kurunze and Eri Tende Somson, to join UCU later this year.