Death of an African activist

Born 1971 – Tuesday, August 30, 2011.

A family man, activist and African patriot: these three words sum up Innocent Empi, who sadly passed away on August 30, 2011.

This brother was a wonderful brother. I am saddened by his loss, especially because I knew him personally since 2004 when I first met him in Manchester.

He fell ill in his office, whilst working selflessly to help undocumented Africans from the Congo to gain their legal status in the UK. He was buried on September 17, 2011 in northwest London according to the wishes of his family.

It is thanks to the efforts and bravery of Africans such as Innocent Empi that we began to see a politicization of our immigration situation.

Africans from the Congo now openly make the connection between the UK government's looting of Congo and backing of the brutal neocolonial regime led by Joseph Kabila, and the suffering they experience in the UK without legal status.

In the past, people did not talk about their immigration status, as it was regarded as an individual problem, and some preachers tried to make us believe that it was God's will: we rot in UK dungeons (detention centers) and live a life of imminent fear of deportation because the almighty, supposedly, is testing our faith.

Unlike those who abandon the immigration campaign once they have gained their legal status, brother Innocent carried on the struggle for others to gain their status.

In 2007 as a leading member of Congo Support Project he helped to organize meetings and protests against the UK government's policy of deporting Africans to whom they have refused asylum. He also helped to lead the process of taking the UK government to its high court, to make it illegal for them to deport Africans to Democratic Republic of Congo.

Statement from Innocent Empi on gaining refugee status:

“I have been given full refugee status. Thanks, from the depths of my heart, for everybody who has supported my campaign to stay in Britain and who have brought their skills and knowledge to help and succeed. I am happy that I have safety now, but my thoughts are with so many good people who deserve safety as much as I do, who are still being criminalized and scapegoated in this country.

“I am also thinking of people I left behind in the Congo, whom I love, whom I have lost, for whose safety I fear, and who only ask for the right to live in peace, free from fear, with their loved ones.

“I can never be at ease while they are in danger. I do not want to sound ungrateful, but the same government that has given me asylum significantly contributes to maintaining the horrors from which I and my fellow Congolese fled.

“So I have mixed feelings right now. I am happy and heartbroken at the same time. I want to thank you for your support over these years. I could not have survived without the support of so many of you. You know I will continue the struggle. I know you will remain with me in the struggle. And of course, the struggle continues.”

– Innocent Empi, September 25, 2007

It is for his work and resilience that many will remember him. He set an example for many Africans to follow, as he leaves behind not just his grieving pregnant wife and family, but a community that salutes every effort he made in making Africans more free from colonial oppression.


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