Our first refugee wedding in Goma DRC since 2020: It is not just a wedding but an event
The very first marriage of a refugee in Goma since 2021, Narukundo is a Rwandan refugee in Goma who got married to a Congolese man yesterday Saturday November 18th, 2023
This was a great event to us who are involved in issues around refugees in North Kivu, the Democratic Republic of Congo, it is was not just a mere marriage of a refugee woman, it was just an event on its own.
Narukondo (this is not her real name) was born in DRC, her both parents are Rwandan refugees who came in North Kivu in 1994 running away from the genocide in Rwanda. Later on the parents separated but they are both still alive, and they are all just living in North Kivu as mere civilians. This is where we have our first observation. Rwanda Government claims that all Rwandan refugees who ran away from Rwanda in 1994 no longer exist in DRC, sometimes claiming that they are part of FDLR armed group against Rwanda, and sometimes claiming that they are economic migrants, among others.
Narukondo and her family are Rwandan refugees, they are not part of armed groups, and they are just mere civilians. Why should Rwanda deny the existence of these refugees, and why should Rwanda continue sending its security services to kill them, why should Rwanda not recognize them and work together with all actors in order to ensure they are safe?
Narukundo is one among thousands of young Rwandans who were born in DRC since 1994 up today, some both parents are Rwandans, others one parent is a Rwandan refugee while the other is a Congolese national. Sometimes these children do not know who they are exactly, many have the Congolese voter’s cards and believe they are Congolese. Narukundo speaks very well Kiswahili and French like many others who were born in DRC and knows nothing at all about Rwanda like so many others. The difference between those who were born in DRC and those who came from Rwanda is that those who came from Rwanda speak Kinyarwanda and have ideas about the situation in Rwanda but those born in DRC know nothing. Those who came from Rwanda do easily identify themselves as Rwandans while those born in DRC do identify themselves as Congolese.
Those Rwandans born in DRC keep on asking questions why does Rwandan Army kill them in DRC, why are they always a target from Rwanda, and how can they go back to Rwanda when they are killed here in DRC by Rwandan Army? If this is done to them in DRC what may happen to them once in Rwanda?
While we observe that the question of identity of this category of people is a prerogative of the Government of DRC in collaboration with UNHR, we are concerned by the Rwandan foreign policy towards these people in DRC. Why Rwanda can’t put in place a policy that makes these people closer to Rwanda, work together with them on issues about Rwanda and make them feel part of Rwandan people? The question remains, what does Rwanda gain by killing these refugees during all various military interventions in eastern DRC? And what could Rwanda benefit if it could have put a priority on the refugee protection during all military interventions in eastern DRC?
Narukundo got married to a Congolese man from Rutshuru who is also a Hutu but a Congolese Hutu. Let us remind that we have two types of Hutus in DRC, we have Hutus refugees who came from Rwanda mainly in 1994 and Hutus who are Congolese Nationals. The husband of Narukundo is a Congolese Hutu, they speak the same language and have almost the same culture, and their meeting point was the church in Goma where they are both members. We also observe that again here in Goma people come together depending on how they belong to same tribes or ethnic group, most of the churches are also in that line, some schools are also in the same among other social services.
Generally those who attended the wedding yesterday were Hutus apart from us few from the organization. Generally it is difficult to have a wedding between refugees here in North Kivu because just they are not economically able to organize such a function, in the same way marriages between refugees and other Congolese tribes have not lasted long, according to refugees when other tribes discovered that the partner is a Rwandan refugees they always break the marriage, we have not yet managed to ask from Congolese why that. However refugees do tell us that Congolese do not want to marry Rwandan because they fear them being connected to Rwandan President Paul Kagame. However it is easier for a Hutu refugee to get married to a Congolese Hutu as we indicated before. These observations should motivate us to work hard on issues about refugee protection and refugee local integration in DRC.
Lastly Rukundo is one among the few refugee young girls who has been married officially. We have not yet known why this but maybe it was much influenced by the church, because generally Refugee girls are always in the situation of weakness and their first option is to get a man who can offer her some forms of protection such as the house to live in, the documents, and other basic needs such as food, clothes among others. They always find themselves in a situation where they cannot negotiate for other things.
As organization we picked interest in this weeding which we shall use as role model in order to promote marriages among refugees as part of local integration and community coexistence. We need to come up with programs and activities that can target refugee young people, empower them economically and create opportunities that can help to organize a wedding easily some among these things may be: The venue for the party, chairs, music system, tents, food, drinks among others which we should contribute for those intending to wed here in North Kivu. We only need to organize few weddings for some people and then they will find it is good for themselves.
We hope that you may pick interest in this and together we can do something to facilitate integration and protection of refugee young people in North Kivu the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos