The purpose of the Badilika Congo Blog (Badilika means “change” in Kiswahili) is to feature voices of Congolese youth who have much to say about their lives and country but lack the resources to access the internet.
Meet Mami (not her real name). She was introduced to me at Panzi hospital recently as she needed fare for travel back to her village in Rutshuru. She was also struggling with acceptance of her child born from rape. Our mutual friend thought maybe I could help. Mami actually has two children from separate attacks. However, she accepts one child and struggles to bond with the other. She makes a distinction between the children based on the ethnic identity of the perpetrator. Mami is a graduate of the City of Joy’s program for survivors (near Panzi Hospital). She wants to be an advocate in the campaign to stop sexual violence in Congo. I asked how I could help. Below is the English translation of her story which she wrote in a blank journal the night before she left Bukavu. She asked that I publish it on the internet. Mami is back in Rutshuru now – in the heart of M23 territory. She is worried for her safety but she had no where else to go. I’ve tried to text her but I have not heard from her in a week.
THE STORY OF MAMI
I was born in Rutshuru, a territory of North Kivu province in Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Both my parents are Congolese and we live in the Congo.
My mother is a farmer and my father was a primary school director .My parents told me that I was their best loved child because they have been waiting for long before they had their first child that I am.
When I was three years old, my father was a teacher in a secondary school and he registered me in a kindergarten. I later on went to primary school when I was six years old.
I had good characters and was so brilliant; I used to be the top of our classes. Given this situation, my parents and I were very happy and so proud that I used to receive some presents due to my successes.
I had some friends in school, and we loved so much one another .This was the most beautiful moment of my life. I wish I could live again in that way.
When I was 15 years old, my grandfather and my father brought me to visit my grandparents and discover the beautiful hills of Lubero territory (North Kivu).
I was so glad to meet the father of my grandfather as well as other grandparents who belong to the royal genealogy there. They had vast and broad farms of wheat, beans, peas, potatoes etc … Thanks to all of that, their genealogy was very respected. We spent two weeks there.
When I was in 3rd form secondary school, my father was transferred to Karango/ Kalehe territory / in South Kivu province as a primary school director. During that time, I was sent to pursue my studies in Mulo in the Lubero territory (North Kivu). I was staying in a student hostel. I spent two years there.
Given that in 5th form secondary school I could be able to take care of my younger sibling, my parents decided to send me back to Rutshuru to pursue my studies there. I had much work to do. As an inexperienced girl, focusing on my studies while taking care of my younger sibling did not work. This caused me to fail in school .Given this situation, my parents decided to send me to a student hostel in Virunga grammar school of Jomba where I graduated and got my diploma d’état in commercial and administrative technique. It was a great day of joy in my family to celebrate my graduation.
When I was 21 years old, my parents decided that I could start my university studies in rural development in a local university in Rutshuru.
In the age of 23 years old, I completed the second year in that university, my grandfather, my three young brothers and I went to Kalehe to say hi to our parents there. During that time, there was horrible insecurity.
Two days later after our arrival in Kalehe, it was about 7 pm when the FDLR soldiers came to our house and shot some gun fire ,They killed my grandfather ,my father , and my three young brothers whom I loved so much were killed before my very sight ,their blood spilled on the ground ,their corpses laid on the ground ,this still breaks my heart even to these very days. It was on that day that I blamed my existence. They have been murdered because they opposed against the FDLR soldiers, they were not allowed to go with me, and they were killed.
I loved my family, my father, my grandfather and my three young brothers did not deserve such a death. It was not the time neither the way they could face death.
After this murder, I was brought to the forest by the FDLR soldiers to become a sexual slave of their group commander. When I arrived in the forest, I became increasingly weak. For 21 days I was able to hear but unable to speak .Certain parts of my mind were not functioning properly.
For eight months in the forest I witnessed horrible and unexplainable exactionsand murders of innocent people. Men, children as well as women were being killed without any obvious reason. That FDLR commander exploited me as his own object.
Eight months later, this FDLR commander, his body guards and I went to Musenge market in Walikale territory (North Kivu) to sell marijuana and some goats they looted .I took another road outside my oppressors ‘s . I took the road to Hombo in Kalehe territory in (South Kivu); during that time I bore a four month unwanted pregnancy.
Leaving Musenge to Karango, I spent two painful weeks in the forest, I was alone and eating wild fruit and drinking water from the streams. When I arrived in Karango, no one was in our house; there was no one in the village. I went to introduce myself to the head of the village. He took me to a lady called Masika who is a coordinator of an organization that struggles against sexual violence. Masika has warmly welcomed me; she then took me to Minova hospital center (Kalehe territory in South Kivu) for medical treatments. After a week medical treatments, the doctor referred me to Goma health Africa where I received some appropriate medical care for a month.
After I was cured, Masika and I returned to Minova. Masika supported me during all the time of pregnancy. When I was about to deliver, Masika took me to Minova hospital center where I delivered a girl that I named GIFT and who is an unwanted child for me and who never benefited from my affection from the pregnancy to these very days , because when I see her ,I remember my dears who were killed.
When the baby was four months, I went to Rutshuru to look for my family. When I got there, I met my mother and my young sister living in my matriarchal family because my father’s family grabbed from my mother all the things left by her late husband. My mother lived a very poor and difficult life in her family because she did not have anything to survive.
It was very difficult for me to live in such conditions; I decided to come back to Minova to stay with Masika. When the child was nine months, I refused to continue nursingher because it was an unwanted child for me and it is the evidence that depicts all my woes and misfortune.
When I was 24 years old, I resumed my university studies and got my undergraduate diploma in environment and sustainable development at ISIDE / Rutshuru.
When I was 26 years old, I wanted to continue with my studies in Goma. In this town, it is well known that people suffer intensively during the dry season. I lived in Kitoyi quarter where it is hard to find water. One day some friends from our quarter and I woke up very early morning at 4am and went to search for water ,Unfortunately ,once again ,we fell in the hands of the soldiers of the military police of the Congolese government who were on patrol in our quarter. These constituents of the military police called us and started intimidating us so as they rape us. We were three girls and two boys. These latter were seriously beaten .These soldiers were six.
For me, because it was the second time to be raped, I enclosed myself in my bedroom and started asking myself some questions .Why always me? I spent five days in the bedroom and my head was traumatized .Masika was once again called; she came and took me to a mental health center where I spent three months. During these three months, I was receiving care at the mental health center and at heal Africa simultaneously.
Unfortunately I was in the period of ovulation, I once again fell pregnant. it was the second unwanted pregnancy .After I was cured, I came back to Minova where I stayed until I gave birth to my second child who is a boy, and I named him GIFFEN.
In the age of 28, I had the opportunity to do some training in humanitarian logistics for six months in a training center in Goma.
One day I went to Rutshuru to say hi to my mother. Three days later, I got a phone call saying that the house in which I was staying got fire and everything inside there was burned. I got back nothing in there .My life became so difficult after this disaster; I was obliged to return to Minova.
In the age of 30 when V day started its activities in Bukavu, our association which has a partnership with human right watch has been sensitized to search for women who have PTSD (post traumatic disorder) .Fortunately; I was selected among those who could benefit some training in leadership at the city of joy in Bukavu.
The objective of V day is to care for the victims of rape and gender based violence so as they leave the phase of victims to the phase of leaders on basis of the ten ways to transform our pains into power.
We were 90 women from different corners of the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After six months of training, we gained a lot from the training, but we were not fully cured because the atrocities which we underwent during our captivity left some spots on us; children born through rape constitute for us a huge source of psychological and social instability as far as we are concerned.