1st Edition

Escape from Lubumbashi A Refugee’s Journey on Foot to Reunite Her Family

By Estelle Neethling Copyright 2024

    This is the true story of Adolphine, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who was twenty-two when she had to flee her home in the war-ravaged DRC in 1996. She walked thousands of kilometres across Southern Africa to be reunited with her husband Sepano in Cape Town after two years of a desperate search. Her incredible journey to escape the ruinous rule of Mobutu Sese Seko was filled with many moments of terror and despair, every country having its own share of xenophobia. She told the writer – the retired national tracing coordinator of the International Red Cross’s Restoring of Family Links programme in South Africa – “I felt as if the earth had teeth, I felt its bite when I was fleeing through Africa…”.

    Her story is a powerful intimate account of belonging and the anguish of displacement, of settling and being uprooted and how a deeply troubled household navigates this across time and space. Her story strongly highlights the vulnerability of women and children in times of war and unrest.

    Print editions not for sale in Sub Saharan Africa.

    Preface - Annie Barbara Chikwanha
    Introduction - Rhoda Kadalie
    How Adolphine’s story came to me - Estelle Neethling
    Adolphine's voice - Adolphine Misekabu
    PART 1
    1 Flight from Lubumbashi
    2 Happy childhood days in Lubumbashi
    3 Mulumba Joseph wa Nkudimba, “man of peace”
    4 Nkudimba’s fallen hero and his living nemesis
    5 Life in Zambia and political turmoil
    6 An arranged marriage becomes a love match
    7 A wave of unrest in Zaire
    8 Journeying through the wasteland
    9 Change of fortune in Malawi
    PART 2
    10 Fall of a tyrant
    11 A star-crossed family reunited
    12 Mobutu Sese Seko tumbles – rebuilding a life in the mother city
    13 Three babies born to the Kabangos
    14 Fear in a time of xenophobia
    15 Refugee life in Cape Town post 2008
    16 An deep-rooted legacy
    17 A stout, but heavy heart
    18 Sepano’s visit to the DRC
    19 Tragic news – yet new found peace


    Estelle Neethling met Adolphine while working for the South African Red Cross Society as national tracing coordinator (Restoring of Family Links Programme, International Committee of the Red Cross). This book done over nine years was life-changing mainly in that Neethling became familiar with the enormous challenges faced by displaced people. Neethling felt the strong need to tell Adolphine's story after having known her for many years.