Finally I was released on Wednesday June 29th, 2022 at 5pm by the National Intelligence Agency in Goma, North Kivu, the Democratic Republic of Congo
Thank you so much for your support and advocacy during the two weeks detention at National Intelligence Agency Cells in Goma DRCongo.
Those who do receive our publications already knew that I have been a target by the security services in Goma, because of my activism on refugee issues. I managed to hide for over a month but later on I could not afford to remain in a low-profile because it was costly.
On that fateful day on Tuesday June 14th, 2022 at around 2pm as I was in a meeting with refugee leaders at my office, security officers from the National Intelligence Agency commonly known as “ANR” pointed at the door with a summon letter calling upon me to come immediately. I stopped the meeting and moved with some refugees towards their offices. When we reached as they saw refugees I was with, they told me that they needed me on Wednesday in the morning, as I moved out from the fence, security officers came and arrested me from the other roadside and put me inside as they indicated that it was an “order from above”.
They then put me to interrogation and as usual it was about my identification, what I do, the organization I work with, the donors and lastly the refugees, my activism about refugee rights in Uganda and why I’m in Congo. The key question was on the issue of “fake Burundian Refugees”, which they attributed to me that I’m the one who is involved in this scam. “Fake Burundian Refugees” are Congolese people who are believed were registered as Burundian refugees in Goma, and are perceived as the most favored by UNHCR and her partners in order to divert the humanitarian relief aid. In short money for education, health and shelter is given to these fake refugees and they do divide it with some actors in various offices in what is called here “return back operation”.
I shared with them what I knew about this issue and requested them to engage with refugees in order to get more information. Then in the evening at around 6pm, of the same Tuesday, they told me that I was arrested and that more will be communicated later on. They removed all that I had, and I was taken to the Cells and strict instructions were given to watch me and control me.
The Cells has a leadership put in place, and as I came in already the leadership of the Cells was already briefed to submit me to torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment. As I entered, each person took what he managed, some took the trousers, others my shirt, and found myself necked. They told me to stand near the door from 6:30 pm up to 9pm when they finished eating and praying.
Then they told me to come and explain to all the detainees why I was arrested, I started narrating and in the process, if I said what someone does not understand, he could come and beat me whatever he wanted while others were cheering, laughing and encouraging him to beat me more. I suffered a lot because I was telling them about refugees which many have never heard about and this was their first time.
At the end they now subjected me to three (3) types of torture which aimed at forcing me to promise them money which the amount was 20$ and that I could give it the following day, at first I did not know but in the process they told to give them money. The first torture exercise was to stand and then start drinking a beer like a village man, in the process one person came demonstrated what they wanted me to do, and then I started, that was to take two (2) hours but it was painful I could not, and when you fail, there are beatings from all corners, the second torture exercise was to climb on the wall of the Cells and stop up like a monkey on the tree, that was also supposed to take two (2) hours which I also failed, and the third (3) was to carry the world which I also failed to do. All these exercises went on up to mid-night when they told me now to give them money, I promised to give it in the morning and that is how they allowed me to sit down, later on they took me to a place called “Rwanda” where I was supposed to sleep, that is the place where prisoners urinate from, and I was to sleep just on the floor like that, and the place was smelling a lot, and this is where they smoke from.
In the morning my relatives came and brought me the 10$ which I first gave the Cells leaders in advance. The money which is given is generally distributed between the Cells leaders and those from Security who control the Cells, and the money was not asked only from me but from all those who enter the Cells. The only difference was the torture, as people enter the Cells, a security officer should come before to instruct the Cells leadership who to torture and who should not be tortured and who should be well treated.
After two days and that was on Thursday I was removed from the place called Rwanda and taken to a much better place called Zaire after giving more money and I stayed there until I was removed out. For the first two days I was not given food, despite the fact that even my relatives were coming with food but it was diverted.
On Sunday we were all told to move out in order to wash and bathe and then we were taken back inside. After week a lawyer sent by Human Rights Defenders came to visit me but he had nothing much to do, and later on the United Nations Human Rights Officers came and pleased for my released but in vain, they were told that I made an audio where I said that I was the head of the National Intelligence Agency in North Kivu, and that I tarnished the image of the Intelligence agency in my social media messages. And that in order to be released I should pay a fine of 500$ or if not I was to stay in Cells for another one week in order to be educated.
I stayed in the Cells and life became challenging as the security officers started eating food from home which our relatives brought to us, and they started charging 1$ from all those who could bring us food. In the Cells they could offer small quantity of food in the evening, and the three (3) times I ate that food I felt sick.
Finally on Wednesday evening at around 5pm they called me out and told me to go back home.
I with my heart thank you so much, thank all those who helped me in different ways: The refugees who remained mobilized and came to the Cells every single day and brought me food, my relatives and friends who moved up and down, those who contributed money to give to officers, to buy for me food, to make phone calls, to pay in order to be allowed to see me, all those who were involved in lobbying and advocacy and various levels. Thank you so much.
But my security here in Goma is highly at risk and I still need your support, I’m sick and I need adequate medical treatment and at the same time I need to improve my security in order to reduce the risks.
What is certain is that the struggle for refugee rights continues and no amount of threats and intimidations will divert from this conviction.
Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos
In-charge of Refugees and Foreigners
COJESKI DRC , Coordination of North Kivu