Memories of Gisenyi and Goma

By Ambrose Nzeyimana

Some of the victims of hatred planted by Tutsi extremists in the Rwandan society for their insatiable hunger of political power.

Some of the victims of hatred planted by Tutsi extremists in the Rwandan society for their insatiable hunger of political power. This was 1994 in Goma when death and life were embedded as one.

Goma is a city at the shores of the Lake Kivu. It is located in the Congolese province of North Kivu in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Its twin city of Gisenyi is on the Rwandan side of the border between the two countries.

My mother died in Goma in 1994 among hundreds of thousands of my compatriots when millions of Rwandans had to leave their country to escape war.

I was born in the southern part of Gisenyi district but grew up in the Gisenyi city, the main town of that Rwandan western region.

On Saturdays or Sundays, with other young boys of my age, particularly Bahati, who was already a good striker despite his youth, we used to cross the border and go to watch football matches in Goma.

I was between 9 and 11 years old. We followed regularly the Goma football calendar. We loved football.

I remember we liked much the team Darling Faucons, the pearl of the football celebration in the region.

It was a real delight watching local football stars whose names I forgot, such much time has passed since. No, I think Kabasele was one of them.

I don’t know if that team which fascinated our young minds still exists with what Goma has gone through all these last decades.

There were also local “international” footballers. I remember that for example Mohamed, the son of Sef, the businessman who lived in Gisenyi, from time to time played in Goma’s teams.

I was particularly proud of that Mohamed because his father had helped my family with his car – this is in 1964 -, transporting my dad from the village in the southern part of the district to the main hospital of Gisenyi, when he felt seriously ill.

He would die in that hospital a few weeks after.

In the years that followed his death, the family used to visit his grave in the Magengo cemetery, located in the northern part of the city.

The last time I saw Gisenyi was in the middle of the chaos of an almost entire nation fleeing the advancing Rwandan Patriotic Front.

This was around the end of June 1994.

The Rwandan Patriotic Front advanced columns were already in the Mutura area, north part of the Gisenyi district, at approximately 30 kilometers of distance.

Part of my family had fled from other regions and was staying somewhere in the city.

The entire town of Gisenyi was congested by thousands of people who had come from all different parts of the country fleeing the war.

I managed to access a telephone line and talk to one of my relatives who had also found refuge in the city.

This would be the last time I spoke to her. Almost sixteen years later I would see her in Europe.

Many in the family had died across the long journey of war and exile, but also new lives had seen the sun.

After freeing Rwanda, passing through DRC and surviving what many couldn’t, sometimes I reflected back on what happened.

I couldn’t detach from my good or bad memories my deep connection with that country of Patrice Lumumba.

The sad side was however taking the toll on me.

Most of the time, souvenirs were populated by images of the misery of the Rwandan refugees in 1994 and particularly 1996 when their camps were bombarded and hundreds of thousands massacred afterwards while fleeing across Congo.

What Congolese populations themselves endured and continue to suffer from because of external interferences is always present wherever one looks.

With the help of a friend, despite all that negative side of the story, I managed to refocus on the good memories that connect me to that Goma of my youth.

It is true that forces guided by evil tend today to make us believe that such memories never existed, when we were, both Rwandans and Congolese, just human beings minding our own business peacefully, respecting each other humanity.

We need to revive that past when Congolese and Rwandans were only humans living their respective lives within a harmonious environment.

That is the future that Congolese and Rwandans who care for a prosperous relation between the two communities should strive for.

They must fight with the utmost energy extremists of any side and predators of their humanity planting seeds of hatred among them aimed at their ultimate annihilation as people.

They cannot let evil triumphs.

That should be part of their strategies of survival as communities.

Such survival does not unfortunately concern only these people.

The picture is the same across Africa. Communities which once lived together without problems are being torn apart.

Africans need to look back in order to look ahead.

Ambrose Nzeyimana is co-ordinator of Organising for Africa, a platform/network of pan-Africanists interested in finding continental solutions rather than national or particular to individual countries. He is a political analyst, pan-Africanist and human rights activist. Actively advocating for the rule of law and respect of human rights in African countries particularly those from the Great lakes region, he has done public appearances at UK universities and schools. He has as well given interviews to radios and contributed to TV panel discussions on several subjects of critical importance to the African continent including aid, conflicts, and development. He edits the blog: Rising Continent. He is currently writing a book – Play Your Part. He can be contacted by emailing to risingcontinent@gmail.com

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