Françoise, 26, is carrying on her head a plastic basin filled with pots, plates, and pagnes. Françoise has just arrived at the Katanika 2 camp for displaced people, fleeing Katibili, a village on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.
“I fled the clashes that started again between the military and the Pygmy militia, but I do not know where are my husband and my children. With our children, my husband and I had taken the direction of the town of Kalemie. We stayed for two weeks in a primary school in the Kamokolobondo district. Then, since we did not have a host family in the city, we joined the Katanika 2 camp. When we arrived at the camp, we received no assistance. For the survival of my family, I cut and sold wood, I carried sand, and sometimes I did laundry in town. I earned between 1000 and 16000 Congolese francs [about 1 USD]. Life in the camp was really unbearable.”
With the respite observed in the village of Katibili and its surroundings, Françoise and her husband decided to return home to exploit their fields again. Unfortunately, insecurity persisted in Katibili. As it was imprudent of go alone to the field, Françoise was always accompanied by her husband to deter any attack by the militia. One day, Françoise managed to convince her husband to go alone to the field to quickly gather some cassava leaves.
“A little while after my arrival in the field, I saw several houses in the village on fire. I rushed home but my husband and three children were not there. They had already escaped but I did not know in which direction.”
Françoise had to flee too. All along the way, the young mother kept asking the villagers she’d meet if they had seen her husband and children. All the answers were always negative, but Françoise kept hope thinking they had come directly to Katanika 2.
Françoise still has no news of her husband and children. Tired and desperate, Françoise could barely talk about what might have happened to her husband and children. It is in tears that the young mother had detailed the circumstances in which she left Katibili to join Katanika 2 without her husband and three children.
If the situation persists, the villages will remain orphaned by women and their children and the entirety of tomorrow’s community will disappear.
More info about the conflict in Tanganyika
For years, the Tanganyika Province has been facing interethnic conflict between Pygmy and Bantu militia groups. In August 2017, Françoise had already fled after intense fighting between Pygmies to Bantu. Residents of her village had been killed, the houses ransacked, schools destroyed, and churches burned.
Translated from French by Atholl Simpson
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