Rose Shukurami is a woman with striking cheekbones, challenging eyes, a jagged scar on her temple, and a hoarse whisper for a voice. Ordinarily, she would seem like any other Banyarwandan-Congolese woman, but there is something different about Rose: her husband is a member of the FDLR. Rose, her daughter Julienne, and her daughter’s two small children, were captured by the FARDC in a village near Luvungi. When I met Rose, she was being kept in the FARDC military post in Luvungi, a sad group of crumbling buildings with soldiers in red tinsel milling about aimlessly, automatic rifles slung around their shoulders. I was with Arche inqueteur Juvernal Twaibu and Arche field supervisor Iledephonse Masumbuko Songolo to monitor the situation of POWs at the jail; however, on this visit there were no POWs, just Rose, her daughter, and the grandchildren, the youngest of whom was ill. Thank goodness, they were not confined to the horrible cachot, or cell, but were instead only confined to the compound. The family slept in a shabby room next to the cachot, but was given no food, and Rose was not permitted to seek medical assistance for her sick grandchild.
Of course, it may seem ridiculous to imprison two women and two malnourished youngsters, but such is the logic of the Congolese military. Mr. Songolo told the officer-in-charge that since Rose and her family were civilians, they needed to be taken to UNHCR’s reintegration program in Sange, where they could find food, medical treatment, and be taken out of Congo to Rwanda. The officer-in-charge needed to release Rose and her family into his custody immediately, said Songolo, so he could bring them to Sange.
We can’t just let her go,” sputtered the officer-in-charge, “She will rejoin her husband in the bush! The child that is ill may go to Sange to receive medical treatment, but the women and the other child must stay.”
And so, a peculiar argument erupted, with Songolo and Juvernal pointing out the obtuseness of the officer’s position. Somehow the officer did not comprehend that this thin grandmother and her descendents really posed little threat to the state of general security in the Congo, especially once in the custody of UNHCR and on the way back to Rwanda. Finally, Michel Nguale, the section chief for the 8th Brigade arrived. Sangolo and Juvernal once again presented their case for the release of Rose and her family, but Commander Nguale would only make vague, non-committal statements, all along the lines of, “come back tomorrow and maybe I will release her”. However, he did allow Songolo and Juvernal to ask Rose some questions before we left.
Rose said that they had not been subject to any gross mistreatment by the FARDC soldiers at this post, but she had difficulty finding food. In effect, if the situation did not change soon, they might starve.
In Part Two, we will learn a bit about how Rose’s curious circumstances are related to the big picture in the Great Lakes Region.
Posted By Walter James
Posted Aug 19th, 2009