Stories of DRC refugees in Uganda

 Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda
 Emergency Response
 12th Apr 2018

Victoria, (19): “I am so worried about my family”

Victoria (19) is from the Ituri region in DRC. She travelled by boat with her husband to reach Sebagoro, Uganda, where they have been living as refugees for one month. She and her husband have been married for one-and a-half years, and Victoria is 7 months pregnant with her first child. When their village was attacked by another group they were forced to flee their home in the middle of the night, with only the clothes they were wearing. When asked about her hopes and wishes for the future, she has many. She says, “I hope to return to school after my child is born”, and she wants to build a house with her husband with materials they have been provided by the Ugandan government. What is most important to her though is her family. She is worried about having clothes for her baby to wear and her family members that are still in the DRC, whom she could not contact since she fled.

 

Tina, (30): “Before we fled, I prepared fish for my children”

Tina (30) and her husband Ray (40), arrived in Uganda more than one month ago after their village was attacked, people killed with machetes. Before the attack, she was preparing fish for her children to eat while her husband was in the bush looking for firewood. When the attackers came, she ran with nothing but her children. She reached the shores of Lake Albert and was taken across to Uganda for free, with her husband following behind and arriving in Sebagoro two weeks later. They are now looking for a job and waiting for poles from the Ugandan government to build a house for their family.

 

Lisy (26): “I don’t want to return home until it is safe”   

Lisy (26) fled her home in DRC over one month ago with her family, including her two daughters, Rose (6) and Kelly (3). She is unmarried, and left her village with her brother, sister, and mother, after it was attacked. She began her journey by boda (taxi) to Tchome, and from there, they took a boat across Lake Albert to Uganda. They are trying to move forward in Uganda, but it is difficult. She received poles to help her build a house for her family, but she has no money to pay workers and is missing much of the material she needs. Lisy says she does not want to return home until DRC is safe again.


Jeremy (25) and Grace: “We are trying to rebuild our lives in Uganda”

Jeremy (25) and Grace are from Tchome in the DRC. They have two children, and Grace is 9 months pregnant with her third child. Before they fled their village for Uganda, they owned a small shop and a boda (taxi) service. They were prepared to flee, having been warned by friends that the attackers were approaching the village, shooting at people and burning down houses. They left for the shore, where they loaded the few things they were able to save from their burning home (household items and a boda motorcycle), and made the journey to find refuge. They have begun to rebuild their lives in Kyangwali, beginning with a simple house to replace the temporary shelter that does not fit their family. Once the house is finished, the children will return to school, and Isaac hopes to retrieve his boda from the reception centre in the refugee settlement and rebuild his taxi
business.


Esther (20): “ I hope God will help me find my husband”

Esther (20) made her living selling small fish that was caught by her husband. She had to leave her home in DRC when it was attacked. At the time, her husband was fishing at the lake, and since she was unable to find him, she has to leave him behind and make the journey to Uganda alone. She has not heard from him in 4 months, and says “I hope that God will help me find him.” When she arrived in Sebagoro landing site on the shore of Lake Albert, she saw three children, crying and alone. Their parents had been killed, so Esther offered to care for them. Today she is trying to find ways to pay back the neighbour that lent her money to pay for the boat trip to Uganda. She hopes to do that by planting sweet potato leaves she found in a ditch.


Roland (44) and Ani (36): “We are taking care of 3 boys who lost their parents”

Roland (44) is a fisherman with four boats and has several people fishing for him. Ani  (36) helps him by selling the fish and supports a local health clinic by giving nutritional advice to pregnant woman. They have 7 children of their own and care for 3 young boys who they found unaccompanied upon their arrival in Sebagoro landing site. This was not the first time they had fled the DRC. In 2005 they left their home for safety in Uganda, returning to the DRC in 2009, where they lived until 2 months ago when they were forced to flee again. When they fled with one of the fishing boats they took other people from their village. After arriving in Kyangwali, these villagers gave them three plastic chairs as a gift. The plastic chairs are quite valuable for refugees in Kyangwali as only few have chairs. They have begun to create a life in their community, and try to make it better. Ani volunteers for CARE by raising awareness about gender based violence (GBV) and helps to identify cases of GBV in her community. The memories of their home dominate their thoughts, but Roland says he does not want to return. He says he wants to “move to a place further away to forget about their home in the DRC.”


Rose (19): “My mother doesn’t believe that the father of my child was a rapist”

Rose (19) used to live with her parents in Tchome, DRC, where she helped tending to their home. Her baby is now one year and 5 months old. She was raped by an unknown man, but her mother does not believe her. Two months ago, armed people were nearing her village to attack and most of the villagers fled. Rose’s mother was in the field planting crops with Rose’s child, and her father was with the cattle in the mountains. She fled alone, with nothing but the clothes she was wearing and caught a boat to Sebagoro, Uganda, on the other side of Lake Albert. After 4 days, her mother arrived with her baby, but she does not know anything about the whereabouts of her father. Today, she lives with her mother in Uganda, but she does not want to stay with her any longer because there is too much dissent regarding the rape. She says, “I love my baby, but I have no other choice.” She hopes that CARE will help her find a new place for her and her baby to stay.


Nada, (16): “My mother put the rapist in prison. The baby is 8 months old”

Nada (16) ran with her 8 month-old baby away to the bush when she saw attackers shooting people in her home village at Nyamemba Lake in the DRC. She was in secondary school at home, and became pregnant after being raped by her friend’s brother on her way to school. Her mother informed the police who put the man in prison. When the village was attacked, her mother was in hospital because of a back injury caused by a car accident, so she had to flee on her own. She met up with other villagers, 2 men and 4 women, and they paddled to Uganda in a small boat, a journey which took them 3 days, sleeping in the bush at night and paddling during the day. Life in Uganda has been difficult, but CARE has provided Nada with medical care when she fell ill, making her feel better. She does not have plans for her future, she only thinks about her baby, but “maybe I will return to secondary school when the baby is old enough” she says.

 

Kisembo (47) and Mapenza (40): “Our neighbours were killed and our house burned down”

Kisembo (47) and Mapenza (40) were surprised when their village was attacked, it was protected by a river, so they thought the attackers would not be able to get to them. They came at night. Their neighbours were killed with machetes and their houses were burned down. They ran for the shore to try to get to Uganda, but one of their 5 children, their only daughter, was staying in a different village that night, so Kisembo had to try to find her before they left. Mapenza and his daughter made the journey the following morning, where they were able to reunite with the rest of their family in Sebagoro. After two months of living in Uganda, they have not even considered returning to the DRC. They have thought about how to keep moving forward, like finding money to send their two oldest sons to secondary school, or to open a small shop since they have no boat to continue the fishing business they had at home.


 

Desira (24) and Alain (28): “I am so happy my husband survived”

Desira (24) was a primary school teacher after she began studying nursery. After one month she had to stop studying because she did not have the money to pay for the classes, which cost 400 USD per year. She is married to Alain (28), who is a manager for Transcom and has two children from a previous relationship. Just over one month ago she had been warned that attackers were coming for her village and that she should run away with them. Alain did not believe them and stayed, but Desira was afraid and ran for the shore where she was able to catch a boat to Uganda free of charge. Four days later, the village was attacked and her husband finally fled. Afraid he was killed because she had heard of the attacks in her village, Desira says "I was so happy that I wanted to carry him around on my back like a baby" when they reunited in Uganda. Today, she volunteers with CARE to support her community and raise awareness of GBV. She hopes to continue studying someday, and has even considered opening a pharmacy, but says they have to build a house for themselves first, which will only happen once they receive poles from the government of Uganda. “I will come back to my home in DRC when there is peace” she says.


Jemina, (12): orphaned, raped, pregnant

Jemina is an orphan, her father died of malaria when she was a young child and her mother from cholera just two months ago when cholera stroke in the refugee settlement of Kyangwali where Jemina and her family and sought refuge. At just twelve years-old, she is pregnant with her first child. Four months ago, in her home village in DRC, she was raped while selling mandasi that was prepared by her mother. An old man had told her he wanted to buy from her, when she went inside, he locked the doors and raped her. She was screaming and crying in pain. The neighbours heard her and they broke the door open to save her and brought the man to the police, but Police let him escape. Today, she lives in Uganda with an old man who accepted to take care of her and his three sons, but the man has become ill and is in the hospital. The sons share very little food with her and she has no way to get food on her own. She is now in contact with CARE volunteers who are trying to make her life in Uganda better. CARE volunteers visit her place and support her as a victim of GBV, and have provided her medical check-ups at the local hospital. CARE is also working with child protection agencies to arrange for Jemina to have a foster family, a better place to stay and her own food card.


All photos credit: CARE / Thomas Markert


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