I am refugee from Democratic Rep of Congo. I fled my country when I was still young in January 2000, after my parents were assassinated. They were wrongly accused of spying and were killed by rebel soldiers. My Father’s tribe is Mushi. Because of my father’s tribe, my situation was dangerous. Gangs kept coming to our house to terrorise, rape and kill.
One evening in January, I was home with my two sisters and my brother’s wife, and the rebels forced the door of our house open at midnight. When I heard them coming I was fortunate to escape through the back door of our house to the nearby Catholic Parish. But the rebels found my sisters and also my brother’s wife in the house. They raped them and then shot them dead. After they had raped and killed my sister and sister-in-law, they set fire to our house with the bodies still inside.
The next day, rebels came twice more to look for me. The parish priest hid me in the parish house and told them I wasn’t there. I stayed for three weeks, and at the end of that stay the rebels came back with soldiers and arrested the priest for refusing to allow the parish house to be searched for me. I hid for a longer time in the parish house but eventually knew I would have to keep moving. So, I escaped the parish house dressed in a nun’s habit – the parish priest as the only way I could escape organized it. I then travelled to a neighbouring place to stay with my grandfather.
After that I initiated a project on peace called Mulenge for Peace in collaboration with the Christian Church in the Congo. We wanted to promote positive cultural understanding and peace to re-orientate the social situation. I wanted to help build a constructive future through education and a change in attitudes and values. But after the chief of military who was preparing to be elected to be a governor of our state called me and he told me he wants that project to end immediately. Since that day he started to threaten me by telling me that once he is won power he would make sure our project was shut down and he would make my life miserable.
They claimed that I was an intruder, because our grandfather was a Tutsi and my grandmother was a Congolese. Many of our people were killed because of ethnic and tribal hatred from those days. The soldiers started to attack our home again, then they killed my grandfather. From that day I was in great fear because they were looking for me. I left the house and hid myself in the bush. I could not even attend grandfathers burial ceremony because I was in danger. That day I start running without know where I am heading to, on my way I was just crossing the dead bodies of peoples, and that show me that anytime I will die too. After couple of months of walking and hunger, fortunately,with the help of the almighty God, some well-wishers assisted me, and I was carried like goods for sale in a truck which was carrying goods from Kenya to Bukavu. He took me up to the UNHCR officer Nairobi. I spent three days waiting outside. Then UNHCR took me to Kakuma refugee camp where I lived for 10 years under a shelter of plastic sheeting.
I was thinking that as we are under UNHCR care we are now safe. But then life became more dangerous again. I was a victim of robbery during night, when armed people in uniform entered the Congolese community section, and took my few possessions and my clothes as well. Thanks to God I was in neighbours at that time. But they did not stop coming, from there again life become more and more difficult with the frightening insecurity in Kakuma. Refugees are attacked every night in their shelters by robbers wearing uniforms and carrying guns and the authorities of that country do nothing to stop them.
Here people were living without hope of life because you cannot go back home, I could not go anywhere- don’t have homeland, my parents are dead, our house burnt down, the same people who burned our compound, and did the raping are still there (even one among them was our neighbour). I was a victim of a bad politics, tribalism in a country where there is no respect of the human life, freedom of expression, social justice and democracy. Up to now, I still suffer psychologically from trauma and losses of both parents and members of my family and other innocent people.
And I fear for my brother and sister and friends who are remaining and suffering in refugee camp, because any time an unknown person can kill them. People in Kakuma are safer during the daylight, but at night the fear starts……..
After spending nine years of miserable life in the refugee camp, without hope, I got an email address for Sanctuary Australia Foundation, because in camp this email address was shared between friends and many people contacted them. Refugees call that address email “Moses”.
Finally, the good Samaritan group called Sanctuary sponsored me and my new wife, Eduige, to come to Australia. I could not believe somebody cared about our suffering.
We succeeded with the interview and medical process, and were so happy to have hope for the future……….
I would now like to talk about some of my reflections on moving to Australia and to Wodonga.
My first reflection is that Australia is a place of peace. We arrived here in Wodonga in March 2009. Really we were welcomed with every help for the start for our new life. Because as I was in refugee camp for that long period without education so when I have arrived here I join the English class at community college in level three for six month, and in the same year I started my Certificate Three in logistic at Tafe and I got my truck license and certificate. After that I did Certificate Four in Disability and Home and community care at Tafe. After that I went to Latrobe University doing University Bridging program for my preparation for Uni, and now I am heading to finish my Diploma in community services and welfare at Tafe, and doing my first placement at city council. When I finish this course I will go and finish my university in social work.
We pray for help for our brother and sisters families who are remaining and suffering in Kakuma refugee camp.
When I remember about others still suffering there, I start crying in my heart, and tears come in my eyes.
Images by Chalit Ratapana and June. For more info visit: https://fromdusktilldrawnblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/13/yves-my-life-as-a-refugee-a-graphic-narrative-by-chalit-june-april-2016/
*some images provided by Yves were to graphic in nature and we are unable to show them here.