Nonviolence, Peace

Nous devons promouvoir la paix a tout prix!

par Pere Godefroid Mombula,
Directeur du CIC

(a l’occasion de l’ouverture de l’atelier de formation des formateurs du reseau Pax Christi des Grands Lacs, Kinshasa, 18-22 aout 2019)

Monsieur le coordinateur régional de Pax Christi International pour l’Afrique, et mesdames et messieurs les participants:

Il m’est un grand plaisir et un grand honneur de me mettre devant vous pour vous adresser ce petit mot de bienvenue. Je le fais d’abord en ma qualité du directeur du CIAM-Afrique, une des organisations partenaires de Pax Christi International. Ensuite, je me mets devant vous en ma qualité de membre du comité directeur de Pax Christi International. Pour exprimer mes sentiments je n’ai que des mots. Malheureusement, les mots ne traduisent pas toujours fidèlement tout ce qui est dans le cœur de l’homme. Puisque c’est l’instrument que la nature et la culture ont mis à notre portée, je l’utilise tout de même malgré son imperfection pour vous exprimer mes sentiments de fraternité et d’amitié à vous tous ici présents: sentez-vous chez vous!

Mesdames et messieurs les participants,

Nous sommes réunis ici dans le cadre d’un atelier de formation des formateurs du réseau Pax Christi des Grands Lacs dont les objectifs sont:

  1. Apprendre les méthodes d’actions non violentes, à être artisan de paix et à les appliquer aux problèmes auxquels on est confronté;
  2. Aider les candidats-formateurs à découvrir en eux cette force de vie intérieure, libératrice et transformatrice des injustices;
  3. Connaître le réseau Pax Christi des Grands Lacs, son projet et son exécution; concevoir des outils de gestion de ce projet;
  4. Entrepreneuriat des jeunes: création et gestion des AGR.

Mesdames et messieurs les participants,

Comme vous le savez peut être, Pax Christi International est une organisation catholique non gouvernementale pour la paix. Elle a été fondée en 1945 après la seconde guerre mondiale comme mouvement de réconciliation entre les français et les allemands. En effet, l’année prochaine en mai 2020, PCI fêtera ses 75 ans d’existence. Cependant, l’aspiration pour la paix est encore loin d’être réalisée. Des conflits persistent; pensez au cycle de violences et de guerres dans la Région des Grands Lacs.

Nous avons besoin désespérément de la paix: « Pax vobis » (Luc 24, 36). Ce sont les paroles de Jésus adressées à ses disciples après la résurrection. Ces paroles ont été utilisées par les pères de l’Eglise et continuent à être utilisées dans la liturgie catholique dans l’échange de paix. Le monde, loin d’avoir besoin de la nourriture d’abord, le monde et surtout la Région des Grands Lacs ont plus besoin de la paix. Si nous avons la paix, nous aurons la nourriture pour tout le monde.

Mesdames et messieurs les participants,

Permettez-moi de vous raconter une histoire qui me parait très suggestive. L’histoire est écrite par un certain Mr. Nassan:

“There is a huge statue of Christ holding a cross on the Andes, between the countries of the Argentine and Chile. The story of that statue is worth knowing. Once the Argentine and Chile were about to go to war with one another. They were quarreling over some land which each said belonged to them. So both countries started to prepare for war. Then on Easter Sunday, bishops in Argentine and Chile began to urge peace. They went round their countries crying out for peace in the name of Christ. The people did not want war and in the end they made their governments talk peace with one another, instead of war. … The big guns, instead of being used for fighting, were melted down and made into the great big bronze statue of Christ. It now stands on the mountains between the two countries.”

Mesdames et messieurs les participants,

Nous devons promouvoir la paix à tout prix. La paix n’est pas conquise par la force, elle est plutôt l’aboutissement d’une compréhension d’ensemble. Albert Einstein disait: « Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding ». C’est malheureux que notre monde et surtout la Région des Grands Lacs puissent sombrer dans une recrudescence de violences et de guerres pendant que la jeunesse est là, croisant les bras. En effet, la jeunesse est une période de la vie qui devrait plutôt nous donner l’opportunité d’accomplir quelque chose de neuf et de devenir un nouvel homme: « Rien n’est trop difficile pour la jeunesse », dit-on. Nous espérons que la paix est possible pourvu que la jeunesse s’y engage. Et le moyen pour y arriver c’est la non-violence. Mohandas Gandhi déclarait: « My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God and non-violence is the means to reach Him ».

Que vive Pax Christi International! Que vive la paix dans la Région des Grands Lacs! J’ai dit et je vous remercie!

Refugee Stories, Young Peace Journalists

Young Peace Journalists Stories: ‘Faking asylum to be in Europe: never an option’

The following piece was written by Innocent Umezuruike Iroaganachi, a member of the Young Peace Journalists of Pax Christi International (YPJ – PCI), and the World Catholic Association of Communication (SIGNIS). He holds a Bachelor and Master of Arts in Communication Studies, a doctoral student specializing in Peace and Development Communication Studies and a part-time lecturer at the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA) Nigeria. Currently, he is the blog writer and website content editor for Asante Africa Foundation and an emerging media leader with the Centre for Social Awareness, Advocacy and Ethics (CSAAE).

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Few months ago, I was invited to attend a Television (TV) Seminar organized by the TV Desk, of the World Catholic Association of Communication (SIGNIS), in Dublin, Ireland, from 25-30 September, 2018. I had lots of doubt on how possible this can be, because I have to undergo the process of getting an Irish visa. Going by the stories making news on the denials of visa and strictness by European countries to issue visas to young people from Africa – Nigeria to be specific, as a result of influx of migrants into their continent, I was reluctant to give it a trial. But after some motivation from mentors, like Professor Walter Ihejirika, President of SIGNIS Africa, Professor. Joseph Faniran and Dr. Inaku Egere, of the Centre for the Study of African Culture and Communication (CESACC) in the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA) and Dr. Godswill Agbagwa, the founder of the Centre for Social Awareness Advocacy and Ethics (CSAAE) and good friends, I went ahead with the application for an Irish visa. After three weeks of my application, I received a parcel from the Irish embassy, without waste of time, I opened the parcel, behold, on the last page of my passport, was a ninety (90) days Irish visa.

With the visa having been granted to me, many more issues began springing up. Particular among those issues, were people advising me not to come back to Nigeria once I travel to Ireland. I totally understand why they want me to not come back. One will ask, are you coming back to a country that has no plans for the citizens’ development? Like every young Nigerian, who is still struggling to have a better life, I was confused. Even in my confusion, I was sure about one thing, following due process to achieve an aim, thus, I concluded that I will go to Ireland and come back.

When I got to Ireland, I still met people who tried their possible best to discourage me from going back to Nigeria. Popular among the suggestions I got from people, was to come up with a real bad story for asylum. They did gave me instances of stories I could take a hint from and fabricate mine. Particular among them was lying that I have issues with the government, also that I am wanted for sake of my stand against the government on issues about the self-determination of Biafra (a group of Nigerians in the south east, clamouring for independence). Others include, fabricating stories about being wanted for kill by boko haram terrorist group and killer herdsmen, for my stand against their activities in Nigeria. The extent of their suggestions and the opportunities these people suggested that I am going to enjoying, all in the bid to discourage me from going back, made me think at some point, that my decision to go back to Nigeria was not ‘right’.

On my way back to Nigeria, I encountered an embarrassing situation. To enjoy a little bit of the long layover (of Tukish airline) I am going to have at Istanbul, Turkey, I decided to apply for a Turkish visa, to allow me tour the city a little bit, before departure time of the flight to Nigeria. Having arrived at the passport control, I spent over thirty-five (35) minutes been scrutinised by five different Turkish immigration and police officers. At the end of the scrutiny and eventual issuing of the Turkish visa by officers at the point of entry, one of the officers who accompanied me out of the airport and to find my way around, apologised to me for the long delay. When I enquired to know why they had to delay me for so long, I was told that the scrutiny was all in the bid to confirm, if the Irish visa I had was authentic and to verify beyond all doubt, that I will not run away when I am issued the visa to enter Turkey. I was further hinted that this is because they were surprised that a young African from Nigeria (like myself), had an Irish visa, travelled to Ireland and came back way-long before the expiration of the visa. I guess they do not see much of that happening.

Still with all these persuasions to stay back, I was certain about the following, I had a laid out plan for myself and my future, which will include travelling for sake of improving and gaining academic, professional and practical experiences, relating to my field of endeavour, that is, the media, journalism and communication. Therefore, going to Europe or any other place with false intention, staying back after the expiration of the visa, and falsifying stories to seek asylum, were never on the plan and I do not intend for them to be on it. It took lots of personal convictions for me to arrive at the conclusion, to not fake an asylum and stay back in Ireland, especially, after meeting people who claim to have done same and are “enjoying themselves”. Really, enjoying you say! I take an exception to such notion of enjoyment, because it is one built on lies and deceit. I wonder if those of them who frame untrue tales to seek asylum, consider what the consequence will be like, if the truth about their deceit come to the open at some point in their lifetime and stay in such countries.

This article is in no way branding all who seek asylum to be fake, on the contrary, this is about my personal experience and personal opinions, on the extent I encountered direct and indirect pressures from some people, who tried to convince me to fake an asylum, so as to stay back in Europe, a trend that has become so popular for young migrants. I decided not to follow the popular opinions urging me not to come back to Nigeria, not because I have a great job back in Nigeria or that my country has great programmes and polices making life better for the citizens, but for sake of being sincere and trustworthy to myself and the organisations I am associated with, I decided to come back.

Refugee Stories, Young Peace Journalists

Refugee Stories: “The victims of natural disaster: displaced people? Yes, but actually forgotten.”

The following interview was done by Olivier Lungwe Fataki, a member of the Young Peace Journalists based in Uvira (South Kivu), in Congo, DRC.

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Summary:
The story starts by the author observation. It’s about the displaced people, victims of flooding by the waters of Nyangara Pond, in DR Congo, South Kivu Province, in Uvira territory. The waters of this pond had left their natural bed before pouring into the residential area of Kilomoni and destroying many private dwellings whose victims had moved into a chapel of the Catholic Parish of the area. Later, to facilitate the liturgical activities, a site was built using tarpaulins donated by a Xaverian Father. To date, besides the aids obtained two months ago, these displaced people do not know how to go about it so as to go back to their life at home, because of the lack of livelihood, security and protection by the Congolese State and entitled organizations.

The observation…

Once upon a time, in June 2018, when I was heading for Bujumbura, the Burundian capital, located a few tens of kilometers from the city of Uvira, in the province of South Kivu, DR Congo, I caught a glimpse of the tents built in tarpaulins, looking like military barracks, at the edge of the Congolese road leading to the border with the Burundi.

As a result, I was curious to know what it was all about, but I could not stop the vehicle that was carrying us because everyone seemed in a hurry for his business. At my sides, none of the passengers around me could tell me what it really was because everyone was asking everyone.

Two days after my stay in Bujumbura…

As I knew that in the quarter where I saw these tents there is a Burundian refugee transit center, all my thoughts went in the direction of an extension of this center, but still it was necessary to verify. So one good morning, I went to the site to inquire.

As soon as I arrived, I found a mother carrying her child on the back, getting out of a tent to go into the shade of an unfinished building located two meters from the site. I approached her and introduced myself before proposing to her a conversation which she accepted willingly.

Me and her under the shadow of the unfinished building…

Me: How are you?

Her: We are a bit good despite this dramatic situation that has hit us.

Me: Dramatic situation…! Would you like to tell me about it?

Her: In March 2018, our houses had collapsed due to the flood waters of the Pond “Nyangara” which had overflowed before pouring into the residential area of Kilomoni. And many of us, victims of this disaster, had nowhere to go. That’s how we came to take refuge in the chapel of the Catholic parish of Kilomoni.

Me: It was a natural disaster then …. but how did you survive this cascading collapse of the flooded houses?

Her: Oh! That’s the wonder of God and it’s no secret to anyone. At the beginning of this year 2018, heavy rains were felling regularly over most of Uvira’s territory. The waters of the pond “Nyangara” gradually swelled, some could see how their homes were flooding, and others were surprised to see the water rises from the bottom of their houses and fill them all in a few hours. Noticing this situation, we tried to save what we could by starting with the little children before taking care of the furniture. A pity that many did not succeed because most of the houses were built in adobe, therefore much more fragile in contact with the water and yielded easily. That’s how many goods had perished.

Me: Who did welcome you in the chapel and how did you leave there to live in these tents built of tarpaulins?

Her: Initially, when we slept in the chapel, it was on the authorization of a reverend Xaverian Father as a sign of compassion with the victims of the natural disaster, while in the meantime, the liturgical activities took place there during the day. Thus, to free space, we asked the Reverend Father to provide us with tarpaulins to temporarily build tents in the enclosure of the parish that was not invaded by the water. That’s how he paid us tarpaulins for the construction of these tents in which we live today.

Me: How do you live in this site?

Her: We live with difficulties, because it was only in April and May 2018 that we received visits from certain politico-administrative authorities and some humanitarian organizations. After identification of all the victims, some NGOs gave us living goods including beans and rice; another one had built us a latrine. But also, some administrative authorities had given us kitchen utensils, soaps and few clothes. However, since June, we each one manage in one’s own way to make ends of month meet. Many of us are farmers, other fishermen. When we leave our tents for our occupations, we lose a lot of property for the lack of security and surveillance of the site. Particularly, the Congolese State has taken no steps to protect us and secure us.

… Under conversation, other people, also victims of this natural disaster, were heading towards us …, among them, there was a lady who had been indicated to me as responsible of the displaced people of this site. Suddenly, I greeted her and introduced myself at the same time.

Her (responsible of the displaced people site): Thank you and welcome to our place.

Me: You are welcome, Madam! I would like to know how much you live in this site?

Her: We are here forty households, but other victims of this disaster settle in unfinished building sites here in Kilomoni.

Me: Now that the waters of the “Nyangara” pond are gradually regaining their natural bed, are there not people among you who are going back to their homes?

Her: No, unfortunately. Because most of the flooded houses had collapsed, and to return to live there, you must have the means to start building. The majority of those who occupy tents here do not really have those means. On the other hand, those who prefer to be much safer are going to look for unfinished building sites in the quarter to settle there, because here, the more it rains the more the tarpaulins are destroyed in contact with the sunlight which shines in Uvira.

Me: What does the Congolese state say about your case?

Her: Nothing at all.

Refugee Stories, Young Peace Journalists

Young Peace Journalists Stories: ‘My path as a Young Peace Journalist’

The following interview was conducted to Merveille Charles Kakule Saliboko, a member of the Young Peace Journalists from Butembo, North Kivu province, DRC.  He tells us why he chose to become a Young Peace Journalist for Pax Christi Internationaland explains from his own perspective the importance of such project.

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Interviewee Identity

Name: Merveille Charles Kakule Saliboko
Age: 26 years old
Sex: M
Hobbies: Communications, journalism, blogging writing, traveling

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Summary

This interview has been made to Merveille Charles Kakule Saliboko, a young peace journalist based in Butembo, North Kivu, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Merveille is also a journalist, blogger, and works in communications for certain organisations. He writes for print, online press, and radio on topics relating to peace, agriculture, the environment, and sustainable development in the African Great Lakes region since 2010. His passion is to tell the stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, marginalized people, people displaced by war and waiting for the return of peace in their respective hometowns.

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Why did you decide to take Pax Christi International training?

In March 2016, I published an article on people fleeing the massacres of Beni, article published in the French magazine Afrique Agriculture. This article was awarded by AJVPD Tupashe Amani in collaboration with the MONUSCO public information section as part of the Amani Presse Peace Journalism Awards in North Kivu in May of the same year. The Young Peace Journalists initiative is timely, to enable me to sustain this peace journalism experience serving refugees, displaced persons, asylum seekers … 

How did you hear about it?

My cousin Kennedy Wema, who is a journalist (president of Syfia International and Reporters Without Borders correspondent in the DRC), took part in a Pax Christi International activity held in late 2016 in South Africa. Knowing that I had won a peace journalism award and knowing my concern to make this world better through peace journalism, he invited me to apply by sending me the phone number by email.

Why did you choose to interview these people?

It seemed interesting to me to better understand the situation that the orphaned child victims of the Beni massacres go through on a daily basis, when they fled, how their life goes in the community that welcomes them (here the school) and how the teachers understand the behavior of these children: how do these teachers “adapt” to the victims? Are they prepared to deal with the unpredictable cases of these traumatized victims? Are these victims sufficiently integrated? These are the questions that I wanted from the start to have answers for, to better present this situation to the rest of the world.

As for the second interview (to be published soon), I also proceeded with a questioning: the decision of the Prime Minister was made, was it followed? What is the current situation of Rwandan refugees living in Congo-Brazza? Are they stateless? What was the level of their integration into the local community (they have just spent 20 years in this country, for many of them!)? Questions that allow me to identify the situation of these people, in light of the cessation clause of the refugee status put forward by Rwanda since the end of 2017 that only Congo-Brazza has decided to apply.

Is migration a hot topic in your country?

This is a subject that is on the lips especially in the province of North Kivu where I live. Tribal communities are wary of each other especially towards the Rwandophone populations. They are rightly or wrongly accused of being at the root of the conflicts in the region. Recently, there was even a petition to demand the split of North Kivu, a petition initiated by the Rwandophones (Hutu and Tutsi). The same approach was initiated in South Kivu. In both cases, the other communities spoke with one voice, and initiate a counter-petition for the territorial unit of said provinces. In an amalgam, some people even say that the killings in Beni are perpetrated by Hutu who want to go to Ituri (there were also massacres not long ago, by the same people according to these sources). Looking for land to cultivate. This situation had even hampered the free movement of people from Goma (capital of the province) to Butembo (economic lung): thus, in mid-2016, two innocent women from Goma were stoned and burnt alive in Butembo. I had denounced this situation on my Facebook account, giving the true identity of these victims, the reason for their trips (family or business): here too, the youth had become aware. Given the relative prosperity of the Butembo region, there is no feeling of emigration. It is above all the internal migrations (mentioned above) that are all the rage.

How many interviews have been conducted up to now?

For the moment, a paper has been published. It’s a compilation of five interviews created with victims of the massacres of Beni, in the Nord-Kivu province in the east of the DRC. In the second interview, we see a human rights activist from The Congo, who tells us about the situation of Rwandan refugees in this country: what they endure, in light of the recent decision of the Congolese Prime Minister Clément Mouamba, to apply the secession clause of the refugee statute (as requested by the Rwandan government). This interview will be published next 29th of June.

What has changed?

It is difficult at the present time to quantify the changes in the communities that have been affected by the publications. Still, the article on the victims of the massacres sparked a wave of solidarity in the comments in the various Facebook groups where I shared the link. More awareness was born.As for the article on Rwandan refugees living in Congo-Brazza, we are waiting for the publication to have an impact. I hope that this will be the beginning of an awareness of the situation of those people we hardly talk about, except for the rare moments when the “officials” of the United Nations (UNHCR), Rwanda and Congo decide to talk about it.

What did it bring you personally?

I got out of it a lot of things. First, a practical training on peace journalism (I parachuted in this area by winning a prize following an article published in the “agricultural” sense). I needed to be equipped to cope better with the various situations in the region in which I live: I am convinced that peace in the world begins with me. I also met other young people, peace-loving like me.

Photo: Merveille (pictured in the middle) interviewing Massai people in north-western Tanzania in 2016.

Refugee Stories, Young Peace Journalists

Refugee Stories: Loamba Moke, human rights defender in Congo-Brazza: “The situation of Rwandan refugees in Congo is ambiguous”.

The following interview was done by Merveille Kakule Saliboko, a member of the Young Peace Journalists and a peace reporter based in Butembo, North Kivu, in eastern DRC.

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Loamba Moke, human rights defender in Congo-Brazza: “The situation of Rwandan refugees in Congo is ambiguous”.

After the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 (800,000 deaths among the Tutsi minority and moderate Hutu), a few thousand Rwandans had taken refuge in the Congo, a small country in Central Africa of about 5 million inhabitants after crossed the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are now scattered in many parts of the country and depend on agropastoral activities or petty trading. On them hangs the threat of statelessness due to the cessation of refugee status since December 31, 2017.

To better understand the situation, Mr. Loamba Moke, President of the Association of Human Rights and the Prison System (ADHUC), a civil society organization from Congo-Brazza, is online from Brazzaville. Interview with Merveille Kakule Saliboko, one of the Young Peace Journalists …

Mr. Loamba Moke, in mid-January, you published a statement in which you say that the Prime Minister of Congo-Brazza, Mr. Clement Mouamba, “just planned the genocide of the 8,460 Rwandan refugees” in the Congo. Today, how could we call these people? Refugees or migrants?

You are right to ask this question which is very delicate. As a human rights defender myself, I find it difficult to put an exact answer, to say what these non-exempt Rwandan refugees are becoming. Have they become migrants, stateless people? This is a very important question. Since the declaration of Prime Minister Clement Mouamba, the applicability of the conventions that Congo and Rwanda have had to sign internally, these conventions violate copiously and correctly the regional and international conventions. So, today, the situation Rwandan refugees in Congo is an ambiguous situation. We do not know which category to put these Rwandan refugees.

So, the Prime Minister’s statement of January 10, 2018 refers to the cessation of refugee status clause. What is the result of this statement?

After the Prime Minister’s statement, there were no effects of applicability. In principle, what we were waiting for was to see what the government should do to ask what the methodology is, what the means are … In fact, in the internal convention signed between the Congo and Rwanda, it is said that refugees who refused to go home, would be sentenced, arrested, extradited. You see that extraditing 8,460 refugees is not easy now to arrest all these people. To this day, the only difficulty that Rwandan refugees face is that they have no more papers, they cannot do any activities and therefore they are ransomed by the police of our country. This is a situation of violation of human rights, the rights of these Rwandan refugees.

Before this clause of cessation of refugee status, before this statement by Prime Minister Clement Mouamba, how did these Rwandan refugees live on Congolese soil?

They have been here in Congo for 20 years. There have been mixed marriages, some are farming, others are trading … They were already fully integrated in Congolese society. But unfortunately, today, they live the opposite of this integration that they had lived for nearly 20 years in Congolese society.

Has the status of these people changed in their daily lives? Are these people afraid to go out and not be arrested by the security services?

Exactly, they are arrested. So far, they only have their refugee cards running until December 31, 2017. And when the police arrest them, looking at who is already out of date, the policemen kidnap them, either arrested in police stations. They are asphyxiated. It’s hard to call this life a secret life. We call on the Congolese government to find a durable solution quickly.

Do you have any idea how many Rwandan refugees would be in Congolese prisons because they were arrested by the police because of the Prime Minister’s statement?

You know, there is no government information on the situation. The police act in their own way. The police are calling these Rwandan refugees and when they are arrested, at some point, if they have some money, they give. Sometimes they choose not to go to the prison and live in hiding. We are preparing a report of the reality on the ground, to describe in detail the situation.

Have there ever been voluntary returns of Rwandan refugees to their country of origin?

There were not many people; it’s at most twenty. We know the number of refugees who are not exempt, the 8,460. Moreover, those who have returned to Rwanda do not exceed twenty. Most of them remained in Congo because for them peace is not yet effective at the level of Rwanda.

In your press release, you ask yourself several questions about the reasons behind Prime Minister Clément Mouamba’s statement. What do you think would have motivated the Congolese prime minister?

The motivation is very simple. If you read our memorandum published in February 2017, in this memorandum, we showed what agreements the Congo had already signed with Rwanda, through their foreign affairs ministries. The Prime Minister is just applying these ten conventions. In one of these documents, it is said that when Rwandan refugees refuse to go home, the Congo has the obligation to arrest them and extradite them. This is well stated in the convention signed under the assistance of UNHCR, the United Nations High Council for Refugees. Has there been a thorough analysis to see how far more than 8,460 people can be extradited to their country? I do not know how they will proceed …

On October 2, 2015, a ministerial meeting on the Global Solutions Strategy for Rwandan Refugees took place in Geneva at UNHCR Headquarters. About voluntary repatriation, the Rwandan Government pledged on that day to “guarantee the safe and dignified return and reintegration of all refugees and take all necessary measures to that end”. Was this commitment not enough to convince refugees to return to Rwanda?

You know it’s a problem of the person. Every person has his rights. We have an obligation to respect the rights of each person. Only these people can tell us the reality. They are Rwandans, they lived in their country. Now that their country is developed, why do not they want to go back? That is what justifies events because in political law there is voluntary return, local integration and resettlement. But in Congo, the part of resettlement was obstructed, and voluntary return and local integration were kept. For us, we first look at the individual. What does the individual think of himself? Is he reassured? It’s not a question of what the rulers do. A good part of refugees does not want to leave because they do not have the security guarantee. We must analyse those people who have lived in Rwanda, who have lived through the war, who have fled their country and who are on Congolese territory. They have rights that UNHCR must respect, as well as Rwanda and Congo. Did they respect the rights of refugees? Now, if they are turned back, expelled, their rights are not respected. You know that the Rwandans who are in Congo have memoranda, which they sent to the head of state explaining their non-return. That’s it but their explanations were not considered.

The same meeting of 2 October 2015 also talks about local integration. The “commitment of the participants to redouble their efforts to facilitate the possibilities of local integration for those who wish to remain in the country of asylum”. What has been done in this way?

Local integration took place in 2006 in Congo. Because the Congo and Rwanda, in their conventions, it is said somewhere that Rwandan refugees in Congo-Brazza must withdraw the passports at the level of the chancery, at the embassy of Rwanda in the Congo. These people still consider themselves refugees. And the 1961 convention says that when a refugee agrees to take a document from his country such as a passport, that person totally loses his refugee status. This is an obstacle for Rwandan refugees. The Rwandan and Congolese governments have put in place this strategy for refugees to withdraw their passports to achieve local integration. But, dear journalist, the Rwandan refugees arrived in Brazzaville without any documents because they were in a situation of war. And when they arrived in Congo, they were granted a collective status. UNHCR has kept them for 20 years under this collective status. UNHCR could, after two years, examine case by case and determine who should be and who should not be refugees. UNHCR waited 20 years to ask these refugees to build files to have individual refugee status. This means that there has been a lack of documents everywhere in the refugee camp in our country.

Another commitment that day was the “need to prevent former refugees from finding themselves without legal status or at risk of becoming stateless and agree to take all possible measures, including the exploration of the acquisition of citizenship, to avoid such a situation “. Are there any progress towards the acquisition of Congolese citizenship for these Rwandan refugees?

We are putting in place a strategy because you know that people have spent 20 years in Congo, they have had children in this country. And these children are at university, in high schools, in colleges. These children live in the same camps with their parents. However, our national law states that at 18 you can have nationality. It is a possibility for us to see these children who cannot go to Rwanda but who can acquire nationality, which could arrange their parents. This is an approach that ADHUC is putting in place today.

What is the status of these children born of mixed marriages? I imagine they are torn between the possibility of staying in Congo with their Congolese parents or returning to Rwanda with Rwandan parents …

In principle, even Rwandan children, born to Rwandan parents on Congolese soil, can apply for Congolese citizenship at 18 years of age. That, there are not so many problems. Now, we call on the Congolese government to tap into wisdom and find a lasting solution. We told the United Nations to find a lasting solution. The durable solution is neither forced repatriation nor extradition. I believe that the Congolese government is seeking a solution and I hope that the durable solution will be found to respond to the lamentations, tears and worries of the refugees. I am tempted to say that a political solution is needed at this time.

When and how did these Rwandan refugees arrive in Congo-Brazzaville, more than 2,000 kilometers from their native Rwanda?

You know that the DRC is border with Congo, and the DRC borders Rwanda. After the Rwandan genocide, many refugees found themselves in the DRC. When the Kigali power pursued them into the DRC’s forests, they crossed this vast country. We recorded unaccompanied children, those who lost their parents on the way but there was African solidarity, Bantu solidarity and we brought them to Brazzaville. See! Even these children are considered as people who must go back to Rwanda. They were chased towards the DRC, from where they were chased again in the forests and they found themselves in Congo crossing the Congo river to meet in the northern departments, in Ikolela and Ikobo. Today, they are still pursued.

According to the AFP (Agence France Presse), before the deadline of December 31, only 104 Rwandan refugees were repatriated voluntarily in their country, eighteen have sought local integration and 802 have benefited from the exemption until in 2020. The remaining 8,460 are without status.

Merveille Kakule Saliboko is a peace reporter based in Butembo, North Kivu, in eastern DRC. In May 2016, he won the Peace Journalism Award in North Kivu, a prize set up by AJVPD Tupashe Amani in collaboration with MONUSCO. His award-winning article, “l’agriculture contre la guerre”, published in Afrique Agriculture in March 2016, speaks of displaced people fleeing the massacres taking place in the city and territory of Beni, North Kivu, and who, in waiting for the return of peace in their home environment, engage in agriculture in the city of Butembo. With Pax Christi International, Merveille’s ambition is to be the bard of peace.

Refugee Stories, Young Peace Journalists

Refugee Stories: The drama of a young Burundian refugee serving as a teacher in Mulongwe refugee camp

The following interview was done by Olivier Lungwe Fataki, a member of the Young Peace Journalists. It is the latest entry in the Young Peace Journalists project featuring the stories and voices of refugees. 

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Interviewee Identity

Name: Ndayishimiye Frédéric Etienne
Age: 25 years old
Sex: M
Marital status: Single, Father of a child
Status: Burundian refugee from Mulongwe Camp

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Summary

This story is about Ndayishimiye Frédéric, a young Burundian refugee who lives nowadays in the Mulongwe camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Thanks to his diploma obtained with difficulty in the country of refuge, he teaches to this day at a secondary school which educates Burundian and Congolese children in the locality of the camp. He is the only Burundian teacher at this school, serving as a link between Congolese and Burundian children who don’t have the same culture. Unfortunately, his profession does not guarantee him the dignity of an educator whose noble mission is to sacrifice himself in service for the children’s education.

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Age 25, Ndayishimiye Frédéric is the eldest son of a large family whose survival depended on him because their father died when he was very young. In January 2015, his family received regular night visits by gunmen who had managed to take away all the goats they bred at home.

These undesirable visits had taken a deadly turn during the socio-political unrest linked to the challenge of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s regime. Armed men, generally suspected to be young people serving the regime, were carrying out assassinations and kidnappings at night, targeting anyone who does not share the political ideology of the ruling party.

To flee and continue his studies in DR Congo before transferring to the Mulongwe refugee camp…

While troubles persisted, “the political and social climate of the area no longer promised a better future because I still needed to continue my studies but there was no way here … that is why I had to look elsewhere,” confides Ndayishimiye Frédéric. In his struggle for intellectual fulfillment and physical security, Frédéric Ndayishimiye saw fit to migrate to DR Congo, leaving behind his young siblings and his mother. Once in the country of asylum, he fortunately found a host family in Sange, South Kivu province, where he had started plowing the residents’ fields and getting paid for the job.

“The fruits of this craft made it easier for me to enroll in the sixth year of secondary school, a final degree, in the general pedagogy section in the Congolese education system,” explains Frédéric, who obtained on that occasion his “State diploma”, equivalent to a bachelor’s degree, allowing him to have access to the university.

With the support of a local non-governmental organisation (NGO) that promoted youth education through repayable loans, he was enrolled at the University in the Faculty of Peace Science, Conflict Management and Social Communication, but, according to him, “It was not easy at all because survival depended only on my own efforts. After the course, I had to manage how to eat, while in the meantime I also had to consider repaying the amount received on loan.” He finished this first year in these conditions.

Finally, Ndayishimiye Frédéric resolved to join his fellow Burundian citizens in the transit center to be transferred to the refugee camp. This is how he was admitted and transferred in November 2017 to the newly built Mulongwe refugee camp due to overcrowding of the Lusenda camp.

Until then, the Mulongwe camp was being set up, and everything was not yet organised. Some refugees did not have shelters yet, and others were waiting for enlistment to receive food. In the meantime, the need for education of the children pressed; the area has only one school institution including secondary school and primary school.

In service of the education of children in the camp and the locality of Mulongwe…

While many refugees cultivated and traded food inside the camp because they were allowed to practice the profession of their skills, Ndayishimiye Frédéric had preferred to serve as a teacher at the Kasaba II Institute, the only school in the area where he had applied.

A few weeks later, he was called back to join the teaching staff and was immediately granted the “English and Civic and Moral Education Courses” cause he had had his diploma in the Congolese educational system. Since January 2018, “I regularly practice the teaching profession at this school where I am the only Burundian in a body made up of about ten teachers,” explains Frédéric, who continues: “Every time I come to class, I have in front of me the Burundian children (refugees) and Congolese and also my colleague teachers with whom we cooperate and work in peace … I have never been personally attacked due to my identity.”

To explain the cohabitation at the school between Burundian refugee pupils and Congolese children, Ndayishimiye Frédéric recognises that not all students have the same mastery of French and Swahili, the two languages ​​used in school. This, in his view, handicaps the integration of refugee children who find it difficult to express themselves in a language other than “Kirundi”, the national language of Burundi. In their way of speaking, “Burundian children communicate with difficulty because of the tone of their mother tongue which makes it difficult for them to make heard the sound “l” which they pronounce “r”,” he explains stating that this way of speaking is really the object of laughter by Congolese children.

As an educator, Frédéric Ndayishimiye, who had first lived in the Congo before entering the camp, never stops calling Congolese children to tolerance because this linguistic interference can not immediately change because of the laughter, especially since it’s related to their mother tongue. At least he as a teacher, moreover, due to his Burundian nationality and his mastery of all the languages ​​used at school, knows how to approach all children and explain to them affectionately what it is to live together.

Difficult to live the honour and dignity expected…

Admittedly, “the status of teacher confers a certain esteem to its wearer, especially in school,” acknowledges Frédéric. However, it is sad to see that it is always difficult to find his account in this profession and live the honour and dignity expected. To explain himself, he confesses that he has not received a salary for four months because humanitarian organisations that are supposed to take charge of refugee children, the majority at the school, seem to be shirking their responsibility. This is what makes the teaching profession difficult. “We manage otherwise to live by other livelihoods … with all the risks of being confused as common mortals and then the respect suffers,” says a disappointed Frédéric Ndayishimiye.

* Photo credit: UN High Commission on Refugees, http://www.unhcr.org/thumb3/5acfcdd34.jpg