The family members of renowned Congolese guitarist Lokassa ya Mbongo have disclosed that they are enduring immense suffering and indignity following the long wait for government assistance for his burial, nearly seven months after his passing.
Lokassa ya Mbongo’s remains are currently held in a Kinshasa morgue, having been brought back from the United States to fulfill his desire to be laid to rest in his homeland.
André Marie Lokassa, the son of the late Lokassa ya Mbongo, expressed disappointment that the government had failed to honor a pledge to arrange a fitting funeral for the music icon. A local charity for artists however attributed the delay to family disputes.
Magloire Paluku, a communication official at the Ministry of Culture, Arts, and Heritage, has declined to comment on the issue, tersely adding that inquiries should be directed to the family.
André Marie Lokassa revealed that the family has presented a $75,000 budget request to the government for funeral expenses, but it is pending approval, leaving the family in a state of uncertainty.
“It is humiliation if we must call it that,” André Marie Lokassa told the BBC. He added that the prolonged delay in organizing the funeral was creating tension within the family. With the morgue expenses exceeding $4,000, the family aims to lay his father to rest by mid-October, even if government assistance does not materialize. He hinted at the possibility of implementing an alternative plan if the situation persists.
Lokassa ya Mbongo, born Denis Kasiya Lokassa, passed away at the age of 77 due to complications arising from diabetes and a mild stroke he endured in 2020. Renowned as one of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s top rhythm guitarists, he spent the majority of his career in Paris, France, where he headed the Soukous Stars band since 1984.
Lokassa ya Mbongo later collaborated with singer Sam Mangwana in Ivory Coast to establish the African All Stars. His notable musical legacy includes well-loved compositions like “Bonne Annee,” “Monica,” “Marie-Josse,” “Lagos Night,” and “Nairobi Night.” After residing in the United States from 1996 until his passing in March, his remains were transported to the Democratic Republic of Congo the following month.
Artist in Danger, a charity organization supporting artists in the Democratic Republic of Congo, countered claims that the government was responsible for the delayed funeral of Lokassa ya Mbongo. Tsaka Kongo, the group’s leader, indicated that the delay stemmed from family disagreements regarding who should oversee the burial arrangements. He said that the family needed to submit a letter to authorities, expressing their commitment to resolve disputes and permit the government to coordinate the burial proceedings.
“I approached Lokassa’s family to help them expedite the funeral process but they wanted to proceed alone, which I complied with. The [burial] delay is shocking, my wish is that a solution is found as soon as possible,” Kongo added.