Refugees from DR Congo tell their story

I visited Nkamira Transit camp, 22 km east of Gisenyi in the north of Rwanda yesterday. Refugees have been arriving at the camp from Masisi in North Kivu province, eastern DR Congo since Friday 27 April. The influx appears to have peaked on Sunday. The UNHCR tells me around 3,500 individuals have so far arrived in Rwanda. I did a piece for Reuters on the unexpected crisis from both the camp and the border crossing between Rwanda and DR Congo. I interviewed a number of refugees. I’ve added the raw testimony from three of them below.

I met Olive Kukamujeni (pictured above), a 31 year old mother of three just after she crossed the border. She looked exhausted on her first ever visit to Rwanda. Five months pregnant, with a child on her back, she told me what she had seen just a few miles away over the border in her village in Masisi,

“Just war. It was fighting. We left without anything,” said Kukamujeni. “I lost two children. The fighting was so hard, everybody ran. I don’t know if they died or not. I don’t know if I will go back or not.”

Among the masses waiting in line for food in Nkamira was Justin, a 20 year old student from Masisi, sporting a a red Club Deportivio woolly hat to keep out the mountain chill. He looked up at the mist shrouded mountains that line one side of Nkamira camp and recalled the events a few days earlier that brought him to Nkamira,

“The soldiers came to kill me, that is why I came here,” said Justin. “They shot my parents, my relatives. They killed my parents, my younger brother. Me, I’m here myself.”

Arsene, a fifteen year old student from the village of Mushake, wearing a donated sweater in the colours of the Rwanda flag, said he left because of the fighting.

“Because of the war, the rebels against the government soldiers,” said Arsene. “I saw the people running and the rebels and the government soldiers fighting, but no other things I saw. Only I run, myself, my friends and my relatives. The people are coming and the soldiers fighting.”

“I don’t think I will return there. Only, I wait for the decision the UNHCR will take for us. Only to stay here what they will tell us, we will see.”

“I am not with my family at this moment because when the war happened everybody run for himself. Me too, I run for myself, but my family, until this moment, I don’t know where they are.” (Arsene told me there are seven people in his family)

“In my mind, everything at this moment, it’s bad, because my family I don’t know where they are. At this moment, I’m in this camp, I’m very happy because I’ve just arrived and in this country, at this moment, I don’t see the rebels. Only I see the refugees as me.”

“All my clothes, my bags, they’ve just stolen. The soldiers came to where we were and took all the things. The chance we had because they didn’t kill us. Many soldiers, you can’t count soldiers. Many, many.”

“(They said) nothing except, “Give me phone”, “Give me money” “If you refuse, we will kill you” All the things we had, they took.”

“I saw a soldier killed.”

UPDATE: Here is an edit of the video report I work on with my Reuters colleague: