Few of the 14,700 Congolese refugees in Rwanda’s Gihembe camp envisage returning home any time soon. As with Rwanda’s total caseload of 75,000 Congolese refugees, most are Tutsis who arrived between 1995 and 1997 from Masisi and Rutshuru territories in North Kivu, a province which still has a plethora of armed groups, making it too dangerous for the UN to organize refugee returns.
Many of those in Gihembe, such as John Amini Kayihura, arrived as young orphans, fleeing Congolese militias or the Rwandan Interahamwe extremists who did much of the killing during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
“I came in 1996 from Mweso in Masisi Territory [in North Kivu Province]. Because we speak Kinyarwanda people cannot distinguish us from Rwandans, so we were chased in DRC and had to come to Rwanda - the Hutus who carried out the 1994 genocide came into DRC and started to kill Congolese Tutsis.
“My parents were killed on the way from DRC. I don’t remember much of what happened on the way to Rwanda.
“I came with my brother, but he’s not here now. He left one day in 2009 when I was in school.
“Getting money for living, getting anything, is not easy. We used to get food from WFP, now we get sent money via mobile phone to pay for food.
“We get free schooling up to three years of secondary, after that we have to pay.
“I teach in the secondary school, and earn enough money to buy some clothes, but it’s not very much.
“As a youth leader I focus on sport and leisure so as to forget my life here.
“I have never been back to DRC. I don’t see a good future for me. When you see this life, it’s no way to prepare for a good future. You can do that when you have your land and your rights.
“Once peace returns to DRC we could repatriate. But then the big problem is the Interahamwe is still there and our land is taken by other people.
“Also the ideology of other tribes is a big issue, one that led us to come to Rwanda. If this ideology is still there it will not be easy to go back. But we are Congolese.
“When we came [from DRC] to Rwanda they attacked and killed us at Mudende [refugee camp]. There has been no follow-up [to these 1997 massacres].
“Many of us need another place to be located [in DRC] where they are safe.
“Because I left when I was young I don’t know where my land is and I don’t know anybody who could show me. There are so many who don’t know exactly where they came from.
“I don’t have any hope for repatriation. It would be much better to be located somewhere else; I am talking about resettlement. I would rather go somewhere else than DRC. Some friends of mine went back there, but returned shortly because of insecurity.”