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New American Voices: Congolese Refugee Richard Mbuluku Finds Peace, Freedom In Columbus

Richard Mbuluku

  Columbus is home to thousands of immigrants. In conjunction with WOSU-TV's documentary "Columbus Neighborhoods - New Americans," 89-7 is profiling immigrants who have settled here. In the latest installment of 89-7's "New American Voices," WOSU profiles Richard Mbuluku who came here from The Congo.

Since the 1990s, almost 5-and-a-half million people have died as a result of war in the African nation known by some as The Congo.  Columbus resident Richard Mbuluku survived the Congolese conflict by fleeing the country.  That was 11 years ago.  As a refugee he first settled in Connecticut.  But a search for a long-lost relative brought him here.

“Columbus was not my first point to come here, you see?  But I had a friend of mine, a cousin, a close cousin of mine and by searching I found out that he was in Columbus.  So I came here; I came with my wife to visit, and then going around, I saw that things were so interesting here,” Mbuluku says.

Richard says it’s impossible to compare life in Columbus with life in his African homeland.  He was working in the Congo as an immigration officer but was targeted, he says, by a corrupt government.


“So I was jailed and finally I have to leave the country.   I was targeted by the government so that’s why I left.  No stability.  Up ‘til now just fighting and fighting,” he says.

After serving six months in prison he snuck across the border hidden in a car.

“I left Congo because of civil war.  So Congo has been going through many things for a long time.  And then I have to leave so I left as a refugee,” Mbuluku says.

He misses his siblings back in The Congo but Richard Mbuluku gets excited when he describes his new life in the U.S.

“Ahh.  There are many, many differences.  Human rights.  Here we have a voice of talking. We have a voice of anything.  We do anything; we respect the law but we’re free.  Free of speech, free of everything. Which is different to there,” he says.

Today Richard works helping other immigrants settle in in Columbus.  It’s a task that from one perspective is easy to do.

“Right now, I consider Columbus like my home because I have three kids, all three are born in Columbus.  There’s no idea to move [from] Columbus and go somewhere else.  My life is very, very, very nice here.”

Q: So you plan on staying here?

“Yeah, I’m here!  This is my village, my home, my everything,” says Mbuluku.

Columbus Neighborhoods - New Americans airs January 18th on WOSU-TV.

Support for 89-7’s New American Voices series comes from Ohio Humanities.