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Bitter-sweet human-rights month commemoration for DRC migrants in SA

Congolese migrants in Johannesburg in South Africa meet to celebrate their heritage and remember "home" together. Picture: Amani Fungulo

By Amani Fungulo

As South Africa commemorates human rights month, Congolese migrants in the country say they long to return home but because of the violations of human rights in their country they cannot go back.

March 21 is celebrated as human rights month in South Africa to commemorate the Sharpeville Massacre, where the apartheid police killed 69 people in Sharpeville, South of Johannesburg on the same day in 1960.

Commemoration of this day reminds Congolese migrants of the human rights violations that keep them from going home.

“I left my country to South Africa because of the insecurity reasons, I come originally from the east where even now as we speak is an area which Is subject to tribe conflicts and wars since 1994 until today,” says Emmanuel Papy, a Congolese national who has been in South Africa for 17 years.

Papy was a professional nurse in his country but left after attacks on hospitals started being common. He moved to South Africa, met his wife here and had three children. Despite having built a life in South Africa, he still yearns for home.

“At home, I used to be a leader. I used to own an organization that took care of many people, yes, I can do that here, I’m still a leader here, but the problem is the trust. When you are at home people know you, you were born there, they can easily entrust their children to you, they can easily trust what you do, they know that there is no threat to their life or to their loved ones when they give them to you. But here it is a different story, there are lots of regulations, paper work and nobody trusts anybody, in a certain way when you try to make even a humanitarian work here, you feel you are not allowed to it because of the legal documentation that are required to fill and as a foreigner in a land, you are limited in what you can do and what you are allowed to do,” says Papy.

He says although there is integration between locals and migrants in his community, he still does not feel at home. “We still feel like we are foreigners, everywhere you go you are reminded that you are a visitor, you don’t feel like indeed you belong, even if you find people with the same colour, and you try to adapt to the language, but you still feel like you are not welcome.”

Despite feeling like this, he says the issues at home mean he cannot leave.

“Of course, I miss home, but I feel like this is not the time I should return home all because of the insecurity that still rage the country, but as I said before, home is and will always be home.

In the video below, another Congolese migrants, John Tumbo Wani share on how he misses his home country and hopes to one day return.


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