Just over six months ago, Kanyere Mughambuli, 25, became a “host family”. The experience was new and challenging.
Married for three years, she and her husband live on a small farm in the town of Kiwanja, 70 km north of Goma.
“We chose to welcome children who have this past of being in a rebel group,” she said.
“We wanted to help them and offer a family experience before they return to their communities and families.”
Kanyere is the mother of a little girl and has volunteered to receive children and to take care of them.
So far, there have been seven in all.
“We are a new family now,” smiles.
“They are like my own children. They call me ‘mom’ and help me take care of the house and the garden. I teach them to do household chores and to take care of their hygiene. We cook and dine together,” describes.
Today, Kanyere hosts the young Youssouf of 16 years, who is just over a month.
“He loves to live here, he loves to eat mango from the trees. He is a good child,” comments the foster mother.
“Jambo sana,” greets Youssouf. In Swahili, “hello”.
The teenager lived in Katwiguru with his parents and four brothers about 20 km away from Kiwanja, where his new host family’s home is located.
He remembers the day in early 2017 when he was abducted by the self-called group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
“I was working on a plantation when they got me. They told me to cook from morning until night.”
With a gun in hand, Youssouf had the mission to steal crops and supply the group with food.
A job he claims he did not like to do.
“I had to order forcedly families, fathers and mothers, to bring food to the group. I threatened them with my gun. That was the life I led there,” details.
“Don’t even think about going to fight in the jungle,” he advises. “It’s risky and dangerous. There is much suffering.”
He spent three months in the armed group until he was able to escape.
“I saw people die.” And, at that moment, he thought: “I do not want this for myself.”
The escape was solitary.
While his superiors were engaged in other duties, he managed to sneak without being seen.
“I fled alone during the day.” He ran for two hours without stopping or ever looking back.
What Youssouf really wanted was to go home to his community. But he is afraid that he will be kidnapped again or that his family will suffer reprisals from the armed group.
“I still do not know when I’ll be back. I want to see my family and my brothers,” he says.
Kanyere echoes the dreams of her adopted son.
“I hope he has a good life. I want him to get used to living in a family environment again and to get back to his real family.”
She advises families to fight not to let their children be recruited by armed groups.
“From what I hear from the children’s stories, I must not advise anyone to go to the jungle. Parents have to do everything to keep their children occupied,” she says.