DRC refugee: “I am still scared of the community; I am still young, and I have so much to do before I die”

MIKE KACHIMA is a 24-year-old Congolese living in the Chatsworth camp, after previously staying at the Isipingo camp. Kachima survived an attack in Isipingo, and is still traumatised by the experience. He is also angry about how things have turned out for him and other refugees who were victims of the xenophobic attacks. He shared his story with Qiniso Mbili.

When the municipal officials closed the Isipingo camp, we were told to move to this camp here and all our issues would be tackled one by one. They also promised us that no one would be forced back into their community or home country if they had all the necessary documentation.

Since we arrived at this camp they have not helped most of us with our many complex problems and now they are doing exactly what they said they would not do: forcing us back to the community.

They keep telling us that it is now safe and we must go back to the community. In the townships we do not live with the said officials, we live with community members whose perceptions and feelings about us remain unchanged.

They only gave us the money a few days ago, now they want to close the camp. Finding a place to stay, especially one that is safe, is not easy. I don’t know where they expect us to go now, they broke their promise.

What we need more than this UNHCR package is dialogue between the officials, refugees and locals so we can ensure peaceful reintegration.

We need to hear about the concerns of locals and they too need to hear our stories. They need to be taught the difference between a foreigner, immigrant, refugee and asylum seeker. They need someone to sit down with them and help them understand why we have come to their country in numbers.

Prematurely shoving us down their necks will only result in anger from the locals and, therefore, cause more attacks. The government is taking a gamble with foreign lives as it cannot totally guarantee our safety in the community.

I am sure that most of these people who hate us don’t know what is happening in our home countries. They think we only come here because we are poor and want to steal their jobs and women. In this country, if you have a funny accent or speak a funny language, they classify you as “kwerekwere” (derogatory term for African immigrants) and then beat you up. They do not see you as a person, they don’t know why you are here, where you are from and they don’t care.

Back in Congo (DRC), it is not nice at all. There has been unrest for years now and I believe that if more locals knew about this, my chances of being attacked would be much less.

I am still scared of the community; I am still young, and I have so much to do before I die.

I am slowly getting convinced that going back to Congo is better now because at least there I know I am home.

– As told to Qiniso Mbili.
– Featured image: By Qiniso Mbili.