Damarise, 55 years old, from Rwanda
Damarise fled Rwanda during the 1994 genocide and has been living in Eastern D.R. Congo with her children for the last 23 years. She remembers Rwanda fondly, and now she has the opportunity to go back through a voluntary repatriation programme organised by the UNHCR.
“I have been wanting to go back for a long time, but never had the means. Also, I wasn’t sure what it is like in Rwanda nowadays. But I have seen other Rwandans going back and they sent word back that life is good, so I have decided to go back as well.”
She explains that she still has family left in Rwanda. “Two of my brothers and three of my sisters stayed behind in Rwanda when we fled. They are in good health and say life is good in Rwanda. I am sure life will be better when we go back home.”
Denise left the island of Idjwi, on Lake Kivu (D.R. Congo) where she was living, on foot and walked for several days with her children all the way to the closest UNHCR Transit Centre. She left everything behind and carried all her belongings in a bundle on her back. She has been at the transit centre for a month, waiting for her papers to be in order for repatriation.
When asked if she will miss anythign from her life in the Congo she laughs: “I don’t regret anything, and won’t miss anything here. The Congo is not my home. We have suffered discrimination and life is hard here. If I was having second thoughts, I wouldn’t be here talking to you, would I?”
Photo and Story by: Clara Veale / © UNHCR 2017