By Prudence Minayo
Conjestina Achieng, popularly known as Conje, is a Kenyan boxer whose prowess in the ring made her a household name in Kenya and beyond. In fact, she was ranked number 5 in the world and was the first woman in Kenya to win an international title. For years, she made Kenya shine through her boxing career and won a number of bouts making her a legend in the Kenyan boxing circles.
However, her success in the ring did not equate the money she was earning and with time she stopped professional boxing. At one point she revealed she lacked the money to get proper training and even proper nutrition as the Kenyan government had not invested much in boxing. She was only paid when she showed up for a fight and won and the amount was not enough to cater for all of her needs as well as her son’s. Today, one can only hope that a permanent solution can be found to help the once shining star shine again, even if it is not on the ring.
The boxer was born on 20th October 1977.
Achieng is a fifth born in a family of ten. Her parents are Gertrude Auma and Clement Adalo.
She attended St. Jesus Primary School in Yala and discovered her passion for sports at the age of 9.
Her elder brother who was a member of the national boxing team inspired her to start boxing.
2000: she joined amateur boxing where she fought around 7 bouts.
June 2002: Achieng made her debut in professional boxing and won against Naomi Wanjiku of Kenya
May 2003: She went on to win against Jane Kavulani from Uganda
December 2003: The fight ended in a draw against the then undefeated Zarika Njeri from Kenya
August 2004: The match ended in a draw against Jane Kavulani.
October 2004: won against Uganda’s Fiona Tugume.
November 2004: Lost to Tanzania’s Monica Mwakasanga.
December 2004:won against Fiona Tugume and became the GBU Middleweight title holder.
March 2005: won against Monica Mwakasanga who had previously defeated her in Tanzania.
August 2005: fought Monica Mwakasanga for the WIBF middleweight title and won.
December 2005: Defeated Guillermina Fernandez of Argentina at the KICC in Nairobi and won the vacant WBF middleweight title.
February 2006: Won against Monalisa Sibanda of Zimbabwe.
April 2006: Lost to Yvonne Reis of Florida at Moi Sports Center in Nairobi. This was her first loss in Kenya.
August 2006: won against Uganda’s Florence Nalukwago.
December 2006: lost to Janaya David of Atlanta, Georgia at the Moi International Sports Center, Nairobi.
January 2007: lost to Laura Ramsey of the USA at a fight held in Mombasa.
March 2007: Achieng outclassed Monica Mwakasanga.
May 2007: defeated Tanzania’s Jalala Salum who was making her debut.
July 2007: won over Emily Kabwalo at the Moi International Sports Center.
December 2007: won against Kenya’s Charity Mukami.
April 2008: won over Kenya’s Patroba Lihavi.
July 2008: lost to Natascha Ragosina of German in Cuxhaven, Germany.
November 2008: Lost to Ragosina once again.
February 2009: won against Charity Mukami.
May 2009: draw with Maria Lindberg of Sweden in a match held in Germany.
For a while now, the Kenyan boxing legend has had several issues that have been blamed on substance abuse. She was admitted at the Mathare mental hospital in 2011 with her father asking Kenyans for help.
In 2012, it was reported on Citizen TV that she was not living a good life. Ida Odinga came to her aid and she was taken to Mathare Hospital once again.
A year ago, embattled Nairobi governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko intervened once again by taking her to rehabilitation and she even showed progress.
In June 2020, the internet was ablaze with photos of her living a miserable life with several Kenyans showing sympathy over her living condition. Popular actor and comedian Jalang’o was among those who castigated the system for letting the boxer down. He expressed his disappointment over the government’s failure to help Conjestina once again saying rehabilitation alone cannot help her if she keeps on going back to the same environment that made her that way. He also offered to help through a long post on social media.
Carol Radull visits Conje
Sports journalist Carol Radull paid Conje a visit at her family home in Yala and highlighted the sorry state the once celebrated boxer is living in. Taking to her social media platforms, Radull revealed that the boxing icon was a pale shadow of her former self and had “lost a lot of weight but physically she is still strong.”
Conje told the award winning journalist of how the “…..system that abandoned her at her time of need. She repeatedly said how she was on top of the world, represented Kenya but felt a lack of recognition“.
She had proudly displayed her the silverware she had won over the years in her humble abode. Part of Radull post read:
In her humble hut; what struck me most was a shrine she had put up for silverware – shields and belts; her only reminder of what she used to mean to the country. I know many have tried to assist her in various ways but unfortunately, a lot of those moves have not worked.
Radull questioned the rationale of taking her to rehab and “then returning them to the same challenging environment”. She went on to say that the pugilist was not mad but needed “…more rehab to overcome her dependence on abusive substances. She also needs some counseling (anger management)..” and to be in an environment where her talents can be put to use instead of being left on her own devices after every treatment.
“She then needs to be in an environment where her mind is kept busy; where her talent is being used; where she feels useful and appreciated. Right now she sits at home with her thoughts – doing nothing. She was yelling a lot when we arrived as if to ascertain who is boss. But the more we chatted the more she calmed down and we had a good laugh. I could be wrong in my very layman’s assessment; and I would welcome suggestions,” the award winning journalist shared.
House On Fire
Conjestine reportedly set her house on fire under unclear circumstances. The family of the ex-boxer refuted these reports saying the fire was accidental.
According to Radull, the burnt all her clothes “but the house and belts are safe. The fire was inside the house but went off before getting to the roof,” she said.
A detective told Kenyans.co.ke that the boxer torched the house and it was not accidental.