Malinga & Cléophace
Cléophace: It was October 25, 1996 when the war broke out. It was in the eastern part of the Congo. People started fleeing—some went to Tanzania, some went to Zambia, some took their way to Burundi, and some took their way in Kenya. My wife at that time was in Burundi doing some kind of business. She went there, so when the war broke out she found herself on that side. It was difficult for her to cross again back to the Congo. So myself, I wasn't prepared for that, we were trapped in that situation, and we had to flee.
Malinga: When I was in Burundi there was a family I was staying with—that is where I was living every time I went to Burundi. So I found myself caught in that situation, and I went to that family, and I stayed there. The husband of that family knew Cléophace. That family was a family of Congolese, and they had been settled there for a longtime. But they also had their own problems of security, so they decided to leave Burundi to go to Tanzania for security reasons.
We snuck—we left at five in the morning while all the people were asleep. They said that they could not leave me behind since I was living with them. They said we should all go together, so we went up to Tanzania together. Because there was a lake, if you wanted to go to Tanzania, you had to take a boat. We took the boat and went to Tanzania. The boat ride was long—like four days. There were other people on the boat, too. There was not enough food, so I didn't eat for three days.
I was in Tanzania for seven years. It was hard for me—life was so bad in Tanzania. I was by myself and it was hard for me. I couldn't imagine when I was going to see my family and my husband. After I arrived I went to the church, and I saw the priest, and I said, "I'm from Congo, and I'm looking for my husband." They said, "Yes, we can help you. We can give you someone who can help you." I had some hope in Christ that maybe I would see Cléophace, and I believed that because I prayed.
I want to describe my story, but sometimes I find myself thinking about what happened and it's hard. I do remember before even we left Uvira—my mother was killed. Someone informed me. Somebody came and said, "You know your mother died and we saw the body on the way to the market." So when I went it was not easy.
She was killed, and it was a confusing month—the month of September. It started even in July and August. They were abducting people—kidnapping people. When the war actually started, we just got up in the morning and found everybody on the same road. They were going, making one line because there was only one road. On one side there were big mountains, and on the other side was Lake Tanganyika, so we just had one way to go. If you didn't go that way, you had to go to Burundi, and you can't go to Burundi because Burundi was involved in the war. The border was closed. So we had to follow the long line for a distance of 250 km until we took a boat at Lake Tanganyika.
I do remember I took some things with me when I left. Just about two trousers, if not three, and some shirts which I sold along the way. You know I needed that money. If you found somebody who wanted to give you the value of one or two dollars—you just get it to buy dinner, or whatever. Also I took some books, important books. I had a small bag because at that time I was in the college. So I just used that bag to carry some books and other things, and I just went like that. They were special books for the language Esperanto, because I was learning this international language. I even have that book still along with another copybook. I still have them here.