Champion of disadvantaged communities For Albert-Eden-Puketapapa

Linguist and multi-discipline practitioner Red Tsounga has a tearful story

Venkat Raman
Auckland, August 28, 2022

Red Tsounga is one of those young persons who remind you why the world continues to move forward despite disruptive forces that try to restrain it.

A Labour Party Councillor candidate from Albert-Eden-Puketapapa, he is a linguist and is keen to be the people’s representative, along with, among others Julie Fairey.

Tsounga arrived in New Zealand as a refugee from Congo in 2006 as a teenager and lived in Mangere (presumably at the Refugee Settlement Centre) in the South Auckland suburb of Mangere and six months later settled in Palmerston North with his family.

This Reporter has immense respect and love for refugees, for often they feel desolate and despondent, with almost everyone giving them a discriminatory look and questioning their presence. New Zealand is an exception to that global rule. We have welcomed thousands of refugees in the past two or three decades and seen them grow. Among them are doctors and medical specialists, engineers and innovators, accountants and auditors, entrepreneurs and top executives; one of them has also made it to Parliament. we say, “Welcome, let us grow together.”

Tsounga joined the University of Auckland in 2013 to pursue his advanced education and since then has been helping disadvantaged communities.

He has a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in Anthropology and French, and a Master’s degree in Conflict and Terrorism Studies. He speaks seven languages.

A heart-rending past

Tsounga grew up in the troubled City Centre of Brazzaville by the Congo River, among the tallest buildings in Central Africa.

“As a child, my proudest and fondest memories were learning how to fish with my grandfather, being electrocuted for the first time whilst fishing in the Congo River and playing football for the first time which eventually led me to have dreams of becoming a professional footballer. I farmed and harvested on school holidays with my grandmother Juliette,” he said.

Unfortunately, life changes for Tsounga and his family when the civil war broke out in 1997.

All young men in the Southern Region were ordered to be killed to stop future generations. He escaped from his family before the massacre began.

Abandoning everything that they owned- land, home and other assets, Tsounga and his family sought refuge in the neighbouring country of Gabon.

“We were recognised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) after nine years as Conventional Refugees fleeing prosecution. Our case for resettlement was then put forward to New Zealand, Canada and Sweden. New Zealand accepted us and gave us a new home, and a better future,” he said.

A blessed New Zealander

Tsounga feels blessed, humbled and honoured to be a New Zealander. He says that his story may not be unique (we do not agree) but affirms that his family education and journey have made him resilient, iron-willed and an advocate for his community.

“I have learnt the art of thriving for better, to be appreciative of life and what it offers and to be grateful for what I have,” he said.

He said that he is contesting to be an Auckland City Councillor from Albert-Eden-Puketapapa to give back to the community that has given him life, identity, career, dignity, and honour and contributed to who he is today.

Ill-fated as a child, good fortune brought Red Tsounga to New Zealand, “He is us” now

“I am standing to make a difference in my city to help address the issues and challenges of our communities and continue to work to make Tamaki Makaurau a liveable city for all residents, a place that embraces the beauty of its diversity,” he said.

Issues that are close to his heart are housing, public, and active transport, climate change, better community engagement and Auckland council’s efficiency.

“Ensuring better housing for our communities will be one of my focuses – housing that provides space for families as it is an important factor that ultimately affects the overall hauora of individuals, and the livelihoods of tamariki. I will also advocate for better and more accessible public and active transport options, and support action on climate change,” he said.

Service to ethnic communities

Tsounga wants young people and people of ethnic communities to know that their voice matters, they can have a say in the direction of our city and participate in making decisions for our communities.

He has been working in the Albert-Eden and Puketāpapa for the past three years, focused on community development, where he actively seeks ways to improve the lives and situations of disempowered communities through educational programmes, activities, social support, entrepreneurship, youth empowerment, and advocacy.

“I am passionate about social justice, social empowerment, equality, equity, and equal representation. I also value and understand the importance of whanaungatanga with whomever I work with. That is something I will continuously build on with Auckland Council’s executive leadership team, Council-Controlled Organisation executive teams, and board members. I care about Tangata Whenua and tau iwi of Aotearoa, New Zealand,” he said.

His vision for Auckland is a better, brighter future for its community. A place that embraces the beauty of its diversity. A place one can feel at home – no matter where they are from, which ethnic group they identify with, or their gender and sexual orientation.

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