Before the war, I was a merchant. I went to two years of school, but not enough to learn how to read and write. My mother had three sets of twins, one after the other. I had to stop going to school when I was 10 years old to help take care of them. I regret not having studied. If I had studied, I believe I would have had a better life.

My husband was a nurse, and spoke French. While I did not speak French and was not as educated as he, this did not create a problem in our relationship.

At the outbreak of the 1996 war, my suffering started. onroute to topple then-President Mobutu, rebels associated with former President Laurent Kabila came into my house and beat my husband to death. When he was dead they ripped his stomach open. While they were doing this to my husband, they took my five boys and started beating them to their eventual deaths and defiled them in the same manner they had done to husband. They stabbed me in my right cheek, and again in my right arm, my forehead, my left arm, and below the belly. I was near death. I cried, but none of my neighbors could come to my rescue, as they too were being victimized.

I was flat on the floor near death, and they continued to beat me. When I was finally unconscious, they thought I was dead like my husband and my kids. They left. But during the night, they returned three times to make sure that I was indeed dead. Since I could not move, I stayed in the same position they had left me. They were assured that I was not alive.

The next day, my surviving neighbors found me and took me to the hospital. They also took the responsibility of burying my husband and children. After two weeks in the hospital, I was released, and I went to stay with my maternal aunt. My mother, who was staying in Mbobero, a village near Bukavu, sent for me when she learned what had happened. One night in 2002, two weeks after the death of my mother, the Interahamwe attacked Mbobero village. Six of them entered my house. I was terrorized, beaten and raped by each of them. I cried, but no one could come to save me because the whole village was being attacked. My uncle and many other people I know were killed that day.

In June of 2004 another war broke out in Bukavu. My neighbor and I were picking sombe leaves in her farm when we were surrounded by a large group of General Nkunda's military men. They asked us to show them the road to the house of the Governor of Bukavu. We said that we didn't know. They asked us to show them the way to the center of Bagira. They wanted to complete the takeover of the city. We told them again that we did not know. They said to us, "How can you not know? You are from here. That's how you killed our brothers." I wasn't sure what they were talking about, but I now understand they were referring to the Banyamulenge, the Rwandan of Tutsi origin who has been living in Congo. At that point, I told them, "You were the ones who killed my husband and my children." Six of them took me to a distant location while the others took my neighbor. They laid me down on the grass and five of them raped me. I was crying so loud that they feared people passing by would hear, so the sixth one decided that they should go. By then it was already afternoon and people were coming back home from work. While the war was going on, people continued their activities.

They left me there. I crawled on my hands and knees to reach my house. They had raped me to the point where my uterus had become exposed. I did not know what happened to my neighbor. When I got to the village, I told the population what had just happened and warned that the rebels might be on their way to attack the village. Thirty minutes later, my neighbor arrived and provided the same message. Some people decided to flee while others stayed. The ones who stayed were attacked and looted that night.

I don't understand what has happened to me. I am ashamed to talk about myself, to talk about all that I have seen, lived and experienced. I think I am cursed to have lived my life. I would like to relive another life, one in which I can begin to forget my past, one in which I am not so poor, sad and depressed, one in which I am happy and my children are happy. That's the life I would want to live.


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