Testimony from a Rwandan Refugee in DRC: I don’t how I survived the Genocide in Rwanda, poising and wars in DRC
My relatives did not die of Cholera in Goma in 1994 during the Genocide as it has been believed and broadcasted by International Media: Nyirabigori Maria is the only one person who remained in her entire family of 9 people, they all survived the Genocide and crossed into DRC in Goma where they were supposed to be safe and enjoy protection, but unfortunately they were given food poison and her eight siblings together with her mother died instantly.
Today I feel relieved, at least I have gotten an opportunity to say something which many people do not know, even if I die now at least some people one day in the world will explore more about this, thank you COJESKI for helping me to speak up and to circulate my testimony in the world.
Surviving the genocide and all other wars in DRC since 1996 up to now is just a miracle from God, I do not know how I’m still alive but I think God has a plan for me, may be God wanted me to remain on this earth in order offer services to people and tell the story. I wonder how I survived death in 1994 as we crossed into DRC in Goma, I just don’t know.
During the time of Genocide in Rwanda I was 11 years old, we ran away from home in the morning a certain Friday, before that our neighbors ran in the evening but we decided to stay until morning as we thought that the war may stop, in the morning there was so much gunshot in the area, then other people told us that the war will not stop, on top of that unknown people used to come a take residents by force and go with them to unknown places the most victims were men and young girls, so this put us in so much fear. So we left home we moved up to Gisenyi in Rwanda where we stayed for three days because the war had not yet reached there, after that the war reached and we were obliged to run away up to Goma, where we camped in Birere Round about for three months on the roadside, and in that time people were dying from the roadside but nothing to do, it was believed and highly publicized that people were dying of Cholera, when a person dies you just put him or her aside and you sleep nearby, then smell will start disturbing you and others.
During that time a group Tutsi people based in DRC used to bring us various forms of food mainly Bread which was poisoned on ground that they want to help us, actually many people died due to that poisoned food, later on we came to know when it but it already was too late and many people had died.
I’m also happy that it was me who helped a Muslim Leader to discover the food poising contained in the braid.
In my family I lost 8 people among them my four sisters, my four brothers and my mother, they all eat that poisoned food, including my mother also died from Birere round about.
We were on roadside on that day, then Tutsi came with food relief mainly bread which they started distributing to people, they reached us and they gave us also, so my mother collected all what they gave us and kept it saying that we shall eat it later. But then she gave one piece to each one of us, me I did not eat it at that moment because I had eaten more food from neighbors, I put my piece of bread in my pocket with the idea that I will share it with my friends. After something like 20 minutes, I saw my relatives who ate the bread now sweating and having problems with breathing, none among them could speak anymore, I tried to talk to them but they could not speak, I rushed to the Mosque and told the leader to come and see what is happening to my relatives, when we reached in less than 30 minutes, we found them all dead, then he asked what had happened, I explained to him, and showed him the piece of bread I was still having and the rest of the bread that was kept, he took it and went to test, he came back and told us that the bread had poison, from that they started telling people not to eat any bread from Tutsi. And since that time the high number of people dying stopped.
Later on after five days they came and collected all the dead bodies and put them in the Lorry and took somewhere in Goma for burial, I know that place where thousands who died were buried in one place, current there are a big compound in a fence, some times when I feel bad about my relatives I always go there and just stay at the compound for a while and then come back.
After three months we were transferred in camps around Goma, me I went to Mugunga where we stayed until 1996. It was around 7h30 pm as I was cooking food in the camp in Mugunga, we heard gunshots in many parts of Goma, later on we were informed that the Banyamulenge are the ones attacking the camp, on that evening some people started leaving the camps, I also left the camp and went to Sake. The following morning the Banyamulenge came blocked the road towards Sake and divided people into two parts. The first part was for women who were put in Buses and were taken to Rwanda and then the second part was for men who were killed. I still remember many among my friends and neighbors who were killed on that day.
Then from Sake we moved up to Masisi and then in other parts, on the way people were dying, others died of gunshots and others died in the rivers. We stayed among the local people in many places, until we reached Karuba where I got married in 1999 at the age of 16 years Old and now I have given birth to eight children and I’m with them all here.
In 2007 during the CNDP war we left there and came to Goma where we are staying up to now. All my eight children are alive and with them here in Goma.
The refugee status
In 2016 I managed to get the refugee status here in Goma, my relative came to pick from home and took us to UNHCR Center where I was registered as a refugee and now I’m so happy to have this refugee card.
How does this refugee card helps you?
This Refugee Card helps me so much in many things, sometimes I do not fear anything, I know if I have a problem UNHCR will help me. There was a time I was arrested in Bukavu and UNHCR helped me out, I’m praying that all Rwandan refugees are given that refugee identification.
Apart from this project, I also do small business in order to survive and that is what I want to do in the next years, I believe that if I get a capital of 700$ I can live a better life, with this money I will be going to the village to buy Irish Potatoes and sell it from Goma here.
My dream is to get money and buy a plot of land here in Goma and then build a house for me and my children, I do not want to go to Rwanda I do not believe I can be safe in Rwanda, I want to get a Congolese citizenship or be resettled to another country by UNHCR.