In Gisenyi, Rwanda, a life to the rhythm of the aftermath of the eruption of Nyiragongo

A family from Goma, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, affected by the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano, crosses the Rwandan border in Gisenyi on May 28, 2021

A family from Goma, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, affected by the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano, crosses the Rwandan border in Gisenyi on May 28, 2021

Two days after the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano, Hadidja Dusengimana felt a powerful tremor and heard “like the sound of a mine”: a fault now crosses the courtyard of her house to her living room, where daylight breaks through. cracked walls.

It was in the middle of the night. “We were sleeping and the house started to shake, then the house acted like” + boubouboubou + “, says this resident of the district of Rurembo, in the Rwandan town of Gisenyi, mimicking a pounding:” Then I heard a boom . We ran out of the house and saw the damage.

Gisenyi, located on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is about twenty kilometers as the crow flies from the Nyiragongo volcano, which erupted on May 22. Since then, she has suffered the repercussions.

“I said to myself + what should I do now? + I called my children: + Where are you? Where are you? +. The children replied: + I am here, I am here + “, continues this farmer, mother of eight children.

Relentless aftershocks damaged homes, cracked streets and shattered water supply lines for days. Some businesses and banks are closed, the damaged hospital had to be moved.

According to the municipality, nearly 1,800 houses were affected, including 339 totally destroyed.

This city on the shores of Lake Kivu has also experienced an influx of thousands of residents who came from Goma to seek refuge. While some have returned home, those who did not want to or could not were transferred on Saturday to another locality, in Busasamana.

– Chickens, pigs, mosquitoes –

From Hadidja Dusengimana’s house, we can see the DRC. The border is only a few hundred meters away.

For a week, the family has been sleeping in the courtyard of the house, among the hens and a pig. “We’re going to sell him because we can’t live like that, with him,” she explains.

“We organized the yard so that everyone could sleep. In the morning, we light a fire. In the evening, we take out the mattresses to sleep. But we get eaten by mosquitoes,” says the forty-something, showing her starry face. bites.

She doesn’t know when she can fix her house. “I don’t have the means. If I get help, I can. (…) With help, I could rent somewhere else and escape the mosquitoes but since I have no money , I always sleep outside and I wait to see what will happen “.

A neighbor, who does not want to give her name, confesses to having “lost our appetite”: “We have too many worries because of our houses. We cannot repair them”.

The inhabitants had known nothing like this during the previous eruption of Nyiragongo in 2002, which killed more than a hundred people in the DRC and covered almost all of the eastern part of Goma with lava.

“We had nothing here, no earthquake,” explains Kabaya Seratiyeri, at the height of his 80 years. “There it was so powerful, it scared us”, confides the old man, with the threadbare hat and anti-Covid mask branded Nike.

– “God will help us” –

They saw the authorities helping the Congolese refugees who had come to Gisenyi.

“I accepted my situation. The Congolese are coming and they have help. If they receive help, we should also receive it. Otherwise, God will help us,” said Hadidja Dusengimana.

“We are asking for help, our children are suffering”, implores her neighbor: “They came Monday to identify the damage and register us but we have not heard from since”.

On the municipality side, we explain having targeted the priorities in an emergency.

“We first provided aid to Congolese refugees because they were not at home. They were the first to be served so that they did not lack what to survive,” said AFP. the vice-mayor of Gisenyi in charge of economic development, Deogratias Nzabonimpa.

“Now that we have finished with the orientation of the various refugees coming from the Congo, we are proceeding with the Rwandans who have been affected. We hope that within two or three days, everything will be in place,” he adds. .

Sunday morning, on the site which hosted the camp for evacuated Congolese refugees until the day before, the latter had been replaced by Rwandans in need for a distribution of food, soap and blankets.


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