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DRC Congo refugees at a camp in Burundi. [Photo: Courtesy]
When heavily armed rebels attacked Bunyakiri in the Democratic Republic of Congo, she managed to escape with other villagers.

Not knowing where to go, Christine Kamina (not her real name) carried a bottle of water and few clothes in a small bag.

“My parents had gone to the farm and I was alone in the house when I heard screams and gun shots from a nearby home. I just knew the rebels had arrived to attack us,” she says amid sobs.

The villagers walked for more than 300km as they sought refuge in the nearby bushes, with hopes of reaching peaceful areas.

SEE ALSO: Border delays spoiling business for traders in Kisumu

She was in a group of 30 people who finally crossed the border and entered Nyungwe forest in Rwanda, where they survived on wild fruits and leaves.

Few days later, they found their way to Katuna along the Rwanda-Uganda border where a Kenyan truck driver agreed to ferry them into the country.

“Three of us agreed to board the truck and before reaching the Busia boarder, we had to alight and pass through no-man’s land as the driver waited for us on the other side,” she added.

They came all the way to Mlolongo in Machakos County and the driver handed them over to a woman she only identified as Njeri.

At Njeri’s home, the four women were forced by their host to engage in prostitution to put food on the table.

SEE ALSO: Truckers defy Malaba border deal

“We used to go to clubs at night and whatever money we collected from clients, Njeri took 50 per cent and the driver who saved us 30 per cent,” she said.

They did this for two years before they abandoned the trade after they met a Congolese in Kitengela town, who took them in.

It was not long before, a couple came to their house with documents to enable them register as urban refugees.

Casual jobs

“We get assistance from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees but it is not enough because we have to share something small with the people who helped us register with the organisation,” she said.

This has forced a number of them to engage in casual jobs such as riding boda bodas, selling fruits and washing clothes for people at a fee.

They welcomed the directive to open the border by President Uhuru Kenyatta but raised fears that this would see them arrested as DRC does not belong to the East African Community.

Recently, a magistrate released a Ugandan who was charged with being in the country illegally.

Kevin Wanyakala, who had visited his sister who is married to a Kenyan, was arrested in Likoni at 10pm. He had left his passport in the house when police accosted him.

Interior Ministry’s spokesman Mwenda Njoka said visitors from neighbouring countries will have to follow the laid down procedures before being allowed into the country.

“Their identifications must be taken at the point of entry for security purposes,” he said.  

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