NAIROBI, Kenya, August 5- “I own many properties in this entire town and I don’t know who is taking care of everything. All Nairobi City belongs to me in fact; the Hilton Hotel belongs to my son Charlton.”
That was one of the many startling and outlandish allegations former world middleweight champion and Kenya’s most eminent female boxer, Conjestina Achieng made on Wednesday as her fall from grace lay bare for all to see.
Plagued by mental problems for the better part of the last two years, it was a humbling experience for those who heeded the call to come to her aid including Ida Odinga, the spouse of Premier Raila in her dingy single room house at Nairobi’s Baba Dogo Estate.
When the Premier’s wife accompanied by envoy Yvonne Khamati came to take her to hospital after her plight was exposed on local television station, Kiss TV, they were greeted by a sorry sight that epitomised how the country treats her sporting heroes.
“Kenya is well known for sport and we have various sportsmen that are only noticed during the time they are doing the sport and after that they are forgotten.
“We must have an integrated approach on how to treat these sportsmen right from when they are identified to the future. Recently, I was at the Olympics and I saw how they are treated, they are heroes, bigger than the Prime Minister and President but here, no one knows them,” the moved Ida implored.
She added that doctors would advise them on the next step to take for the boxer affectionately known as ‘Hands of Stone’ upon examination.
The visiting dignitaries, journalists and security team crammed into the single room residence she calls her home as Achieng who at her prime endeared herself to the entire nation gave a tear jerking rendition of her sorry state.
“Wow, my sweetheart! Today, I can see my mother has come! This is unbelievable! It is a miracle! Oh my God! These people have always wanted to poison me with bad food. They have hurt me and they want bad things to happen to me,” the pugilist who welcomed Ida with a bear hug wailed when she stepped into her home.
In the full glare of television cameras, she went on to allege a conspiracy theory against her well being, claiming that one of her sons had been abducted while the other had turned into a “useless man because of them.”
Besides that, Achieng asserted she was ready to take on Laila Ali, the daughter of former world heavyweight champion and boxing legend Mohammed if anyone else, “Apart from the promoters who have taken advantage of me,” organise the bout.
Before Ida and her entourage arrived, she engaged reporters in a conversation where she attempted to explain the reasons behind her steep decline since allegations of substance abuse and lunacy plagued her.
Sitting on a large bed in the middle of the room where only a few items such as a refrigerator, 21’ Inch television set and a stereo illustrated her glory days in the dingy room, Achieng snuffed out a cigarette then went on to highlight her sad plight.
“I know a lot of things. People planned to attack me and cut my head. My house was broken into with a grinder. I know these people and I waited for them after dark so that I could deal with them. That is when they started saying Conje beats people.
“I have many children and I have to take care of them before they become bad people since the people you see want to do bad things to them.”
In addition to believing she owns every property in the Kenyan capital, the first Kenyan female boxer to win an international bout believes she lives in a plane and she had to disembark to meet her visitors.
“Do you know I’m a million dollar girl? I’m a very big technician and I turned this place into a plane. When my contract with sponsors ended, I made this (pointing to her refrigerator) into a plane. I live in Chicago and we are in Chicago.
“I know what goes on since I’m a big lecturer. I go to classroom without chalk and I teach them. My name is known everywhere since I have taught at Makerere and all other universities and schools here. Why they want to harm me? I don’t know.”
When the Premier’s wife arrived with a bag of goodies for her, she could only allow her sister, Carol to touch the food and pleas by Ida to have her sibling prepare tea were turned down.
At some point during their private conversation, she begged Ida to allow her to go out for a smoke and her request was granted. Minutes later, she was whisked away by the dignitaries to hospital.
“Musician Nonini has cleared her four month rent arrears and comedian Churchill (Daniel Ndambuki) has promised to pay her rent for a year. We have received donations from many people such as lawyer Donald Kipkorir.
“We also have a social media team that has started a campaign to get assistance for her from the public and we should do more to help our sporting heroes,” Ambassador Khamati disclosed.
Achieng took to the ring in 2000 after graduating through the youth soccer ranks in Nairobi’s Makongeni Estate, inspired by her elder brother who was a member of the national boxing team.
After seven amateur bouts, she made her professional debut in 2002 in Nairobi, winning a four-round decision over Naomi Wanjiku who fell to 0-2.
In her second pro bout, also in Nairobi, she fought to a four-round draw with Damaris Muthoni of Nairobi before winning a four round decision over Uganda’s Jane Kavulani in May 2003.
Achieng won a knock-out victory over Uganda’s Fiona Tugume in October 2004 at Nyayo National Stadium as her fame began to blossom before she was beaten by Tanzania’s Monica Mwakasanga in Arusha in a six-round unanimous decision.
It was her fight against Tugume where she delivered her most famous bite, “Kujeni mapema na nitamaliza kazi mapema (come early and I will finish her early),” as fans thronged the stadium in their droves to witness her deliver the KO.
In December at the same stadium she won a ten-round unanimous decision over Tugume for the vacant GBU Middleweight title before she earned her revenge over Mwakasanga whom she floored in the fifth round in March 2005 where her opponent had to be taken to Kenyatta National Hospital for treatment.
She won her second global title when she once again sent the Tanzanian to the canvas in a scheduled ten round bout in August at the cathedral of Kenyan sport, the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani to bag the WIBF title.
That December, Argentina’s Guillermina Fernandez suffered a first round TKO as Achieng claimed the vacant WBF crown in what was labelled by even herself as a mismatch.
Zimbabwe’s Monalisa Sibanda was the next to fall in February 2006 on points before to the dismay of many of her Kenyan fans, Achieng lost her bid for the WBC title after being out-scored by American pugilist Yvonne Reis in April of that year.
Her fortunes plummeted in January last year when she was hospitalised at Nairobi’s Mathari Mental Hospital amid accusations she had sold all her properties, destroyed her tools of trade as well as isolating herself from family.
Sports Minister, Dr. Paul Otuoma pledged at the time that she would be assisted to get back to her feet, a promise that clearly was not followed through.
Later in the year, an attempt to promote her comeback in her home city of Kisumu turned into a circus when she ran amok in the town, tearing all the posters erected to publicise the fight as she claimed promoters were conning her out of her due income.
A social media campaign has started to help salvage the career of the latest sports star to fall off the wagon had raised Sh55,000 from Kenyans on Twitter by press time with hash tags #ConjeWillBeOk #KOT4Conje being used to push the effort.
Among others in the list of the country’s crying shame include former champion boxer, Dick ‘Tiger’ Mulunga and former Olympics hero, Nyandika Maiyoro among many others.