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DR Congo: Boxing champion trains youth in war-torn east for a better future

Gaël Assumani practices with boxers in courtyard of the gym in Goma, eastern DRC on June 30, 2024.   -  
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Gaël Assumani practices with boxers in courtyard of the gym in Goma, eastern DRC on June 30, 2024.

Democratic Republic Of Congo

What if the DRC's next boxing champion comes from Goma?

Adolescents in the country's war-torn east have joined a boxing club that helps street children.

Gaël Assumani founded Nyama Boxing, a Goma- based club in 2020.

“There are two kinds of children that we have here. There are those who came (to the street) from their families because they can’t survive in the poverty that they live in. The others come from different zones of armed conflict, and they are in the camps for people displaced by war. In the camps, life has become more and more complicated. Many kids there have decided to take refuge in the street."

Assumani won the Democratic Republic of Congo’s lightweight champion title in 2020 and 2021.

The sport offered him a way off the streets and now he wants to help other vulnerable children.

"We try to give them hope, by training them, by helping them see that they have a family.”

Like many families in Goma, his family fled eastern Congo’s Ituri conflict in the 1990s, later spending five months in a refugee camp.

He experienced homelessness as a teenager after his mother died in childbirth.

Internally displaced people from areas of conflict between the DRC's government and M23, a rebel group with alleged links to Rwanda, have been fleeing to Goma for years, finding shelter in the city’s overrun refugee camps.

Children from the camps often end up on the streets of Goma.

Assumani says that more than a hundred children have been trained at his boxing club.

Steve Kauka is one of them.

The eighteen-year-old ended up on the streets after his parents died.

“I found myself here because I was looking for a place to sleep and then I met friends who sleep here and joined them. I have this space that I have tried to build. It’s not a good life we live, I really wish the government would help us.”

Conflict has raged in the eastern DRC for decades, with the Congolese government fighting dozens of armed groups.

M23 rebels have been seizing swathes of territory since 2022.

Gaël Assumani aims to keep street children away from armed groups which operate in the area.

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