Now I am safe and happy!"

Magueritte fled as a girl from Congo to Uganda and found help at the Sharing Youth Centre.

The story of Magueritte Baengenga

Margueritte tells the moving story of her escape from civil war-torn Congo:

"When I was young, I lived with my uncle because my parents were not able to take care of me and pay my school fees. I was sent to live with my uncle in Beni, a town in the province of North Kivu in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was able to go to school and felt comfortable. But in March 2017, everything changed: our village was attacked at night by the rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces, many people were killed. Our lives were finally saved by the help of the FARDC troops, who drove the rebels out.

The following days after that were tough as a curfew was imposed by FARDC, ANR, military and the army in search of Colonel Joseph Tipi Ziro Ziro, whom they suspected to be the leader of the rebel group. During searches, they came across documents saying that the Colonel Joseph was in my uncle's house. Therefore, my uncle was immediately accused of being both an accomplice and a friend of the rebel leader.

One day some people came and knocked on our door at night. They asked for the documents and when my uncle told them he didn't have them, they immediately pounced on him and started beating him. When I and my uncle's wife saw this, we rushed to rescue him, but they also pounced on us. They beat us and raped us. I became unconscious and I couldn't remember anything. When I regained consciousness, I was already at the hospital with our neighbours. They told me what had happened and said that they had taken my uncle away.

We learned that he was in Kangbway Prison. My aunt decided to visit him but was denied. Life became very difficult as our family's provider was in prison and my aunt was unemployed. We had great difficulty getting food and other basic needs.

Escape to Kasindi

In June 2017, ADF rebels broke into Kangbway prison to get their comrades out. My uncle also managed to escape from prison to Kasindi. So one day he called my aunt to meet him in Kasindi, a town near the Ugandan border. Since then, the ANR came to see us every day looking for my uncle. My aunt then decided that we would travel to Kasindi so that we could meet my uncle and live with him in Kasindi. For a fortnight we lived happily together, then my uncle was caught and taken back to prison. Our lives became very miserable again.

Deceptive hope

My aunt gathered some resources and started a small restaurant in Kasindi market to feed the family. I helped her every day in the restaurant. One day, when I was at the restaurant, a stranger asked me why I was not going to school. I did not speak to him because I did not know him. He came to the restaurant every day and asked me the same question. One day he asked if I would be interested if someone would pay school fees for me and help me with some money for my basic needs. He told me that he would be travelling to Kampala in Uganda the following week and I could travel with him to visit the school there. This was a unique opportunity for me as I really wanted to go back to school. After thinking about it, I decided to come along without telling my aunt because I knew she would refuse.

When we arrived in Kampala at night, he paid for the hotel and said he would not do anything he had promised unless I became his wife. He raped me all night, I was in a lot of pain. But the next morning I again refused his demand to become his wife. I was then told to accompany him to his sister's house. When we got there, I was told to wait with another woman until he and his sister came back. I waited until evening, but he did not return. When I asked the lady, she told me that he had already gone back to Congo and he left me in Uganda with her as a maid. I was so confused that I could not understand what was going on. After a week, the lady took me to the police station to seek help for me as a refugee. That's how I ended up in Kampala from Congo.

Help and future through the Sharing Youth Centre

I heard about the Sharing Youth Centre from a friend and decided to seek help there. I was lucky, the staff welcomed me and listened to me, finally they asked me what I wanted to learn. I want to become a dressmaker and there is a sponsor in Germany who could support me. I was very happy and signed up immediately. I am safe here now. My sister, who was in the same situation as me, is also taking a course at the youth centre. We did it right and made it. After the course, I will work in a tailor's workshop and save money to buy my own sewing machine. Now life is different and I am happy. I thank Action Canchanabury and the Sharing Youth Centre."

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