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All-Star Basketball Player Opens Hospital in DRC

VOA News | Published on August 19, 2006

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National Basketball Association All-Star and humanitarian Dikembe Mutombo says he has no political affiliation in his native Democratic Republic of Congo. He says he hopes whoever wins the July 30th elections will focus on the country's many problems. Mutombo spoke Wednesday with journalists at the New York and Washington Foreign Press Centers about his upcoming trip to Kinshasa to open a 300-bed hospital that he helped to build. VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty participated in the briefing.

The Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital and Research Center, named after Dikembe's late mother, is set to open September 2nd in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa. Dikembe said he is excited about the opportunity to cut the ribbon for the opening of the new hospital.

"We are happy that such a big step is being taken in the continent of Africa, where young Africans who have gone abroad, they have done so well and return home and give such a great gift with this multitude to the homeland. And this is not going to be just a hospital. It's a hospital and research center where we will teach the young future doctors for Congo."

Mutombo, who has donated 15 million dollars of his own money to the construction of the 29 million dollar hospital, said he also got help from private and corporate donations and from his fellow NBA athletes to help offset the cost.

"Some of my colleagues just gave me a lot of money. If you have somebody give you more than 100 thousand dollars from his pocket, you should be happy. And I think that I have been very pleased with the response I've got from my teammates and guys around the league."

Politically, Mutombo said he has no affiliation.

"To me it's just that we are so happy in Congo that this is the first time that we have a free election. Nobody ever voted in my country in the past 46 years since independence. So it's a great opportunity for the Congolese people to vote."

Mutombo called on the Congolese to remain calm as the nation awaits the election results.

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