Fredericton man’s hunger strike for Congo continues as health deteriorates

Updated at 1:57 p.m. Thursday 

FREDERICTON – Freddy Mwenengabo hasn’t eaten since March 4.

The Fredericton man, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, is now a month into a hunger strike.

He’s protesting the Canadian government’s plans to attend the Francophonie Summit in his home country in October.

Mwnengabo says millions have died in Congo and he won’t eat until Ottawa takes action.

After more than five weeks without food, he’s lost about 22 pounds and his health has declined notably.

“I’m getting weaker and weaker,” he says. “There is too much pain in (my) body muscles.”
Heather Logan, a physician who has been keeping an eye on Mwnengabo confirms his health is deteriorating.

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“In the past five or six days I’ve noticed a significant decline,” Logan says. “I’ve noticed muscle twitching and shaking… a lot of muscle weakness.”

Logan says she is concerned about how much longer his protest can continue.

“Two weeks, maybe four,” she says. “We are getting into some dangerous territory now.”

But, Mwnengabo is determined to continue until the Canadian government addresses the issues in Congo.

He said last month he would not eat until Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the federal government hear his message and recognizes human rights abuses in the troubled African country.

Mwenengabo says he has been jailed and beaten up in the past in his fight for human rights in Congo.

He said he was willing to die for the cause because it will be one more death added to the millions who have already died.

“I have no intentions to stop if I don’t get a positive response,” he says. “If I had intentions to stop, I’ve had enough suffering through this so I would have stopped.”


 (Freddy Mwenengabo seen Mar. 5 (left) and Apr. 4) 

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The federal government has taken notice of Mwenengabo’s protest.

Fredericton MP Keith Ashfiled says the federal government wants to talk to Congo about human injustices in the country, but as of yet they don’t have any plans to denounce the Francophonie Summit.

Ashfield says he has concerns for the man’s well-being.

“I asked if he could not continue with the hunger strike. We can deal with it as a government,” Ashfield says.

Although Mwenengabo’s two adopted sons arrived in Canada from Congo Wednesday night – a silver lining after not having seen them for the last seven years – he says the state of his home country is still weighing heavily on his mind.

“There are millions of kids who are kept as child soldiers, there are women raped and so on,” he explains. “And Canada won’t be able to take all of those on their shoulders.”
Watch Mwenengabo’s reunion with his sons at Fredericton International Airport Wednesday night.

Mwenengabo has been posting updates about his hunger strike on Facebook and Twitter, but he’s asking New Brunswickers to contact their MPs and MLAs to put pressure on the Canadian government to take notice of the dire situation in Congo.

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*With files from Kara Rapke