SERAPHINE is one of the newly arrived Burundian refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She fled for the second time to Luvungi, a village in the South Kivu province. But, in addition to being a refugee, she was also internally displaced in the DRC during the war between 1996 and 2002. Celine Schmitt met Seraphine last week in the spontaneous refugee settlement set up next to Luvungi’s market, and she shared her story.
In 1993, I fled Burundi. I stayed here in Luvungi. In 1996, the Democratic Republic of Congo also started a war. We fled together with the Congolese. Congolese and Burundians fled together. Some fled to Burundi, some fled to Tanzania. Some became internally displaced.
I fled to Kashusha and then Tingi Tingi, towards North Kivu, and then I came back to Luvungi. I was displaced in Congo for seven years. I even passed by the territory of Mwenga.
My older sister was raped and killed. She left me her kids. I have nine children with me here. Three are from my sister.
In 2010, I heard that the UNHCR will organise a registration to organise the return to Burundi. I returned to Burundi in 2012. In Burundi, I cultivated my land. I did everything to reintegrate. I went back to my job of a farmer.
But on 17 April, 2015, the demonstrations started. The Imbomerakure and other political parties started demonstrations and it lead to problems between parties. They started kidnapping people in their houses.
When the peaceful population saw that, they remembered 1972 when many people were exterminated like that. They remembered 1988 as well. We also remembered that in 1993 many people were slaughtered like that. When we saw all of that, we thought that we would be exterminated if we stay.
At this moment, being a mother, you judge that it is best to leave your house. You leave without anything because you cannot transport anything. This is why I am here.
The day my country will go back to peace, I will go back home. I still have hope to go back home. It’s like that when you live in countries at war. Every time you run away.
All my children are born in DRC, but I still feel Burundian. My family is in Burundi. All my belongings are in Burundi.
– As told to Celine Schmitt.
Celine Schmitt is the senior regional external relations officer at the UN Refugee Agency, and is based in Kinshasa.
Source : The Daily Vox