Anuarite was born in Wamba (D.R. Congo) on December 29, 1939. She belonged to the Wabudu tribe. Her father’s name was Amisi Batsuru Batobobo and her mother’s Isude Julienne. After having six daughters-Anuarite was the fourth one-her father, a former soldier, dismissed his wife in order to take another wife by whom he might have a son. But he made an unlucky choice as his second wife was sterile. Even though she had to endure the pain of having divorced parents, Anuarite forgave her father with all her heart.
Anuarite’s parents were heathens. Nevertheless, her mother was baptized the same day she was in 1945. Anuarite’s baptism name was Alphonsine. It seems she was even baptized twice simply because her original certificate of baptism was lost.
The name Nengapeta signifies “riches deceive.” Anuarite, which means “one who laughs at war,” was actually her sister’s name and became her own after a clerical mistake. One day, Léontine Anuarite took her little sister Nengapeta Alphonsine to register for school. The Belgian sister who received them must not have been aware of African ethnology and philology or perhaps was absent-minded. In any case, when she saw Léontine Anuarite there to register her sister, she signed the little girl up as Alphonsine Anuarite. From that day on, the name Nengapeta was lost and does not reappear in the rest of Anuarite’s story.
Anuarite was a sensitive child. One day, after seeing a goat butchered, Anuarite refused to eat the meat, saying that the blood was just like hers. She was also very helpful and after school she loved to help her grandmother with her work.
Even as a young girl, Anuarite aspired to be a nun and inspired the same desire in her friends. She admired the nuns in her village and wanted to follow in their footsteps. Sister Ndakala Marie-Anne, her third year teacher, remained a spiritual mother for her.
At first Anuarite’s mother was against her desire to become a nun. But Anuarite was not easily discouraged and, on her own initiative, requested to be admitted to the convent. Nevertheless, the sisters refused to take her because she was too young at the time.
One day, a truck arrived at the mission to take the postulants to the convent at Bafwabaka and Anuarite seized the opportunity to climb aboard, unseen. Her mother looked for her for several days only to discover her whereabouts from one of the village children. Even though Anuarite had run away, her mother did not demand that she return home.
After many days at the convent, Anuarite took her vows on August 5, 1959 and became Sister Marie-Clémentine. Her parents were present at the ceremony and gave two goats as presents to the nuns to show how proud they were that their daughter was consecrating herself to God. Nevertheless, later on, her mother tried to persuade her daughter to renounce her vocation in order to come home and support the family financially.
In her life at the convent, Anuarite devoted herself to serving others and to making them happy. She would even tackle the chores that others avoided. Nevertheless, sometimes she would openly scold those who had shirked the work.
She had vowed never to belong to a man and she wanted the other sisters to keep the same vow. One day, furiously angry, she attacked a hoodlum who was making overtures to one of the other nuns.
In 1964, the Mulele rebellion broke out and in the space of a few weeks it occupied most of the country. The Simba rebels opposed westerners but also indigenous monks and nuns because they suspected them of being in cohoots with foreigners. On November 29, 1964, they arrived at the Bafwabaka convent and loaded all 46 nuns onto a truck to take them to Wamba. The move was for security reasons, the nuns were told. Nevertheless, the truck changed direction and went to Isiro where the nuns were taken to Colonel Yuma Déo’s house.
That night, all the sisters except for Anuarite were moved again, this time to a nearby house called “the blue house.” One of the Simba leaders, Colonel Ngalo, with the help of a soldier named Sigbande, tried to convince Anuarite to be his wife. Fearful but defiant, she categorically and repeatedly refused, even after the furious soldiers isolated her and threatened her with death. Mother Léontine attempted to defend her but in vain.
Meanwhile, the other nuns in the blue house refused to eat without the presence of their mother superior. Colonel Pierre Olombe brought along sisters Banakweni and Marie-Lucie, to report the situation to Colonel Ngalo who asked for his help in seducing Anuarite. Sure of his success, Olombe accepted.
At supper time, Anuarite shared a dish of rice and sardines with Mother Xavéria but could not eat much. She warned her sisters not to drink the beer provided by the Simbas because they were in mortal peril. She declared that she was ready to die defending her virginity.
Later that night, Colonel Olombe, with a group of Simbas, sent the nuns to bed, allowing them to sleep in one room as long as Anuarite remained behind. Very troubled and anxious, Anuarite asked the mother superior to pray for her. Olombe again pressured her to yield to Ngalo’s request. Then he changed his mind and decided he wanted Anuarite for himself. When she categorically refused, he hurled insults at her but she remained defiant.
Then the colonel forced Anuarite and Sister Bokuma Jean-Baptiste-whom he wanted for himself-into a car. Anuarite, followed by Sister Jean-Baptiste, attempted an escape while Olombe went to get the car keys in the house. Unfortunately he caught them and a fierce struggle ensued. Mother Léontine and Mother Mélanie, who were witnessing the scene, implored the colonel to have pity on the two nuns. But the colonel was furious and silenced them.
Colonel Olombe then began mercilessly beating the two nuns. Sister Jean-Baptiste fainted, her right arm broken in three places, but Anuarite continued to resist courageously, saying she would rather die than commit this sin. Her words only heightened Olombe’s fury.
Between the blows, Anuarite had the strength to say: “I forgive you for you know not what you are doing.” In a new fit of rage, Olombe called some Simbas over and ordered them to stab Anuarite with their baionettes. After they had done this several times, Olombe took his revolver and shot her in the chest.
The colonel then seemed to calm down a bit and ordered the nuns to come and take away her body. Still breathing feebly, Anuarite lingered on for a few more minutes before dying at about one o’clock in the morning on December 1, 1964.
Anuarite was buried in a common grave along with other prisoners executed by the Simbas. Nevertheless, eight months later, her body was disinterred and buried with all the honors in the cemetery near the Isiro cathedral. In 1999, she became the first Congolese woman to be canonized by the Catholic Church.
After the rebellion, Sister Fidélia Sembo confirmed meeting Colonel Olombe in Kisangani. He had been taken prisoner by General Yossa Malasi of the Congolese national army in 1966 and sentenced to death for rebellion. When the Belgian mercenary Jean Schramme attacked the Congo at Bakavu, Olombe had fought on the side of the Congolese army. Consequently, his sentence was reduced to five years of prison which he spent in the Ndolo prison.
After being released, he had nothing and came to the nuns for food,–the same nuns whom he had freed after killing their colleague in Isiro. Sister Léontine gave him what he requested saying: “Sister Marie-Clémentine forgave you; we must follow her example.”
Agwala, Marie Jean, Evénements du Congo à Wamba, 15 Août-29 Décembre 1964 (Clermont-Ferrand: Imprimerie G. de Bussac, 1966).
Esposito, F. Rosario, Anuarite: Vierge et Martyre Zaïroise (Kinshasa: Ed. Saint-Paul Afrique, 1978).
Molandisi, M., Anuarite: Ngondo mpe Martiro; Mosaleli wa Nzambe, Mwana wa Zaïre (Kinshasa: Ed. Saint-Paul Afrique, 1978).
Otene Matungulu, The Spiritual Journey of Anuarite (Nairobi: St. Paul Communications/ Daughters of St. Paul, 1998).
Brochure picked up in the street by this author and which recounts her life. The pages with the author’s name and the place of publication were lost.
This article, received in 2001, was researched and written by Rev. Yossa Way, Project Luke Fellow and Professor of Theology at the Institut Supérieur Théologique Anglican in Bunia, Democratic Republic of the Congo.