Congolese Siblings Find Each Other After 13 Years
Giulia Balestra
Posted by Giulia Balestra
Dec 15 17

Everyone had witnessed violence or conflict, left home behind and become separated from a loved one. Jean was one of them. He gently took my notebook and wrote down his phone number and two names: Chancelle and Mireille. Congolese Siblings  Find Each Other After  13 Years     Chancelle:…I am so surprised to receive a … Continue reading Congolese Siblings Find Each Other After 13 Years

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Everyone had witnessed violence or conflict, left home behind and become separated from a loved one. Jean was one of them. He gently took my notebook and wrote down his phone number and two names: Chancelle and Mireille.

Congolese Siblings  Find Each Other After  13 Years

 

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Jean, Chancelle and Mireille

 

Chancelle:…I am so surprised to receive a call from you…and from REFUNITE

Jean: Yes, REFUNITE. I know them…they’re friends.

 

We met Jean* during a trip to Uganda in July 2017. We were there to interview a family that had recently been reconnected through the REFUNITE platform and who invited us to pay a visit to their community and their church.

It was a warm, breezeless Sunday afternoon when we reached the makeshift church in the neighborhood of Muyenga* in Kampala. The priest introduced us and our work to the families attending church, most of them refugees and asylum seekers trying to start a new life in a country different from their own. Every person we talked to had witnessed violence or conflict, left home behind and become separated from a loved one. Jean was one of them. He gently took my notebook and wrote down his phone number and two names: Chancelle* and Mireille*. In 2004 Jean was forced from his village in South Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, due to his religious beliefs.  He had been in Uganda for 6 years and had lost contact with his two sisters since he left home.

We left Kampala with a list of 18 people reported as missing and the determination to do something about it.

On a Tuesday afternoon in December, we received a call from Jean: “I need your help..”. Months ago a Congolese man living in Burundi travelled to Kampala for business and met Jean. When Jean told him about his life, the man said he believed he had seen his sisters. He left his phone number with Jean and told him to stay in touch in case he had more news about his sisters. Jean wrote down the phone number but did not make the phone call. Instead, he reached out to us. He wanted REFUNITE to talk to the person in Burundi and ask about his sisters.

I still had the notebook with Jean and his sister’s information.

REUNITE’s Congolese agents called the man in Burundi. It took another three or four calls for us to be given another phone number. Chancelle? We verified details and asked questions, then with Jean on one side and Chancelle on the other we started a conference call. 13 years after they had been separated, Jean and Chancelle had the chance to talk on the phone again:

 

Jean: I don’t even know where to start… So..now, tell me, how are things there?I don’t find my words…I don’t know what to say..

Chancelle: Me too….I am so surprised to receive a call from you…and from REFUNITE

Jean: Yes, REFUNITE. I know them…they’re friends.

 

 

Jean’s sisters Mireille and Chancelle today live in Bujumbura, Burundi, and the three siblings are trying to find a way to reunite and be together in Uganda soon.  

 

 

*For security reasons, all names and specific current locations have been changed to protect the identities of the interviewees.

15th December 2017.

 

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