Interview with a Rwandan Refugee in the Democratic Republic of Congo:
Furaha during the interview with her at her home in Goma DRCongo on April 7th, 2021
It is now time that refugees can express their views and it is time that they should be listened to, and their ideas to be taken into consideration. We always hear more from political actors, more from humanitarian actors and researchers and always less from refugees themselves. But let us find out from the ground how do they look at the reality.
“Being a Rwandan in the Democratic Republic of Congo is an insult: That is why we always opt to hide and pretend to be Congolese”.
As Rwanda marks the National Genocide Day on April 7th, which is believed the cause of so many people living as refugees in D.R.Congo since 1994 up to now, we moved in some parts of Goma to understand how refugees view this day, do refugees remember this day? Do refugees commemorate this day? Do refugees feel safe in D.R.Congo? And do refugees have innovative ideas in order to improve their lives? Do refugees think about their future?
As indicated by so many refugees we talked to, refugees are generally believed to have run away from the Genocide in Rwanda, many people here in DRCongo do think that we are criminals who killed people in Rwanda and that we are running away from justice in our country Rwanda, but the reality is different especially when you engage in interviews with refugees. Many did not run away from general war during the genocide, but they were targeted and persecuted basing on who they were or because of what they believed in and the side they might have supported.
Generally refugees in D.R.Congo we talked to did not commemorate this day because according to them it was wrongly done as genocide of “Tutsi” done by the Hutus which they believe does not depict the reality. But also many perceive this as the cause of their plight and the beginning of what they are facing, yet they did not take part either directly or indirectly in the genocide.
We talked to this lady who we want to identify as “Furaha” which is not her true names.
During the genocide in 1994 I was still too young, I could not participate and I was not responsible for what adults did, basing on what I hear, I understand the genocide was there and that was a bad thing, I do not care it was against who but I feel offended that people decided to do things in that way.
However we came to D.R.Congo to seek refuge and in few months a war against us Hutus started in Congo and thousands among us were killed, by then in 1996 I was still too young and I could not have been among the rebels who were said to be organizing in refugee camps against Rwanda, and this war against us has continued up to now.
I’m now an adult and I have never been among those who organize themselves against Rwanda, and I do not even think about it. I’m just a refugee here and I want to live a better life as refugee. They claim that we women are married to Interahamwe/ Rwandan rebels but also on this note, let me clarify that my former husband is a Congolese even if we separated and I’m not yet married again. So why am I a target of Rwandan Army? Why does Rwanda look for and wants to kill everyone who is Hutu?
Rwandan Army has done so many bad things here in Congo, and also Interahammwe rebels have done so many bad things against Congolese people, so being a Rwandan here is the worst thing, it is the worst insult and I cannot identify myself as Rwandan refugees, no, all my neighbors do not know that I’m Rwandan, they all know that I’m a Congolese from Rutshuru. Congolese hate all Rwandans so much, if they come to know that I’m from Rwanda, I fear they can attack me, hand me over to Rwandan security services and discriminate me.
In order to survive here, I have no other options, I’m not a prostitute but someone gave me a house where I have been living and in return I give him sex but I’m tired of such life, I do not want it.
I cannot go back to Rwanda with the current regime in place, because my parents were connected to various actors in the former regime and I believe if they get me, they will punish me for the faults and crimes that might have been committed by my parents that is how the situation in Rwanda is.
Here in D.R.Congo, our major problem is security, every day that passes we fear Rwanda may come for us, I believe that one among the options to help us is through humanitarian relief aid and education. If I’m given opportunity, yes I can still go to school. The International Community should come and help us.
Note from the ground
Rwanda who came to DRCongo by then (Zaire) before, during and after the genocide were in three categories mainly (refugees, soldiers and political actors). The refugees constituted 80% of the population and the 20% might have been soldiers and political actors.
Currently Rwandan refugees in DRCongo are constituted of more 85% are those who were born in DRCongo after the genocide and those who were still children bellow 10 years during the genocide. Less than 10% is composed of Rwandan who were already young people or adults during the genocide that means they were above 13 years old. And the rest of around 5% is composed of those who were adults during the genocide.
Our approach towards the situation of Rwandan refugees in D.R.Congo aims at promoting durable solutions, measures of effective protection and humanitarian relief aid.