From Isabelle to US

"To be where you want to be, you sometimes need to accept certain sacrifices to achieve your goals."

My name is Isabelle Kibassa Maliba, I’m a politician of the Brabant-Wallon in charge of the economy, education and agriculture.

My journey in politics didn’t start today, since my childhood I always had a passion for politics. I was born Lubumbashi in the south-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Lubumbashi is in Katanga: Katanga is known as the most important mining region of the DRC. You can find minerals such as cobalt, uranium and copper there. I’m the daughter of an advocate of trade unionism. For a very long time my father was in a political party against Mobutu, politics was a way of life back then for our family. My father was also in the same political party with Mr. Etienne Tshisekedi, they founded the first opposition political party in the DRC.

We were often threatened, and our house was bombed more than twice. They made us run away. That’s how I came to Belgium as a political refugee.

My first impression of Belgium was the cold weather. Not only was it cold outside, but people also were cold towards me. People didn't understand why we came here. When I started telling my story they gradually understood because my story was getting media attention. There was a fence between us, but I think that in a relationship everyone has to take a step towards each other.

I don’t think that migration costs as much as they say. It is the perception of people that makes it so big. At a moment in time we gave the word to political parties who liked to use migration as the scapegoats and that’s what is causing problems.

People need to understand that we’re coming here not because we want to but because it isn’t good out there. Now I’m talking to the world: if there is migration it’s because of certain occidental politics in Africa. If we had fair trade, we wouldn’t be talking about migration.

It’s really sad that when we talk about migration the main question is ‘Why do they come here?’ Yes, why do they come here?

They didn’t intentionally want it. It’s the result of foreign politics and the dictatorial African governments.

But anyway, what made me what I’m today is my willingness to succeed and use my talents. I often compare myself to a sim-card. A sim-card has its own characteristics and history, if you take your sim-card away your phone is useless. So, the sim-card is the key to opening the world to your phone. That’s what I think you need to be, a sim-card: accept my past and open up to the world. Without excusing xenophobia, some problems are occurring because people don’t understand and don’t know each other. So, by being that useful sim-card I can be understood.

I always knew that I would become somebody! I was hungry, I had the willingness to succeed and was working towards my goals without focusing on racism and other discriminations. The black woman that I was and I’m today, is still facing obstacles due to the colour of my skin and my gender but I defy anything negative and focus on my goals. It’s true that I sacrificed a lot even my family life but to be where you want to be, you sometimes need to accept certain sacrifices to achieve your goals.