Please note this story contains details of sexual and physical violence
The day everything changed, I was happily married and mother to five children: two boys and three girls. I had a job that I loved –working as a medical doctor in the hospital in Kinshasa, DRC, the city where I had grown up and spent my entire life.
My husband had a good job. He was a superintendent within the National Police and was loyal to the Congolese government. One day in January 2013, he was suddenly arrested with 12 others. The charge: plotting a coup to kill President Kabila and his Prime Minister. They were jailed without trial. Visits by family and friends were forbidden.
I was angry and wanted justice for my husband. I didn’t believe he would plot a coup and I wanted him to be freed. I tried to appeal to the government but was unsuccessful and so in April 2013 I started a small lobbying group with the families of the other people who had been arrested at the same time as my husband. We held a meeting at my house to come up with strategies so our cries would be heard –by our government but also international human rights organisations.
We planned to get together again that month. But the night before the meeting, at around midnight, a group of armed men wearing civilian clothes came to my house to arrest me. They forced my door open, telling me they would kill me if I didn’t obey. Although I was crying and shouting, no one came to my aid. The armed men put anaesthetic gas on my face and I fell immediately asleep and was taken away. All of this was witnessed by my children who were terrified but powerless to do anything.
I spent two years and three months in jail. I can’t talk much about what happened to me there as it is too traumatic. What I can tell you though is that while I was in prison, my husband died. He had been beaten, neglected and prevented from accessing medical care. I don’t know where he is buried.
All of this had a terrible impact on my mental health and I suffered from psychological disorders, including insomnia and suicidal feelings.
One day, one of the jail directors came to visit me. He took me by force, something that became a regular habit for him. He wanted me to be his wife and so arranged for me to escape.
I didn’t want to be with him so instead I managed to make my way to the UK, where I applied for asylum and begin the long process of rebuilding my life. I began to look for ways in which I could integrate with my new community. It was then I found Prisoners of Conscience.
You gave me a grant, which was very helpful as all my benefits had been stopped. This was a very difficult time for me in many ways –emotionally, physically, practically —and so your grant really supported me. I used the money to pay for TB tests for two of my children so they could come to the UK. I had saved enough for the first two but needed help to bring my family back together again.
Also, I was able to study again and thanks to your bursary I have completed a masters in Global Health at Coventry University. If you hadn’t supported me, I wouldn’t have finished my course. It helped me concentrate without stress.
Thank you for the great work you are doing. You have really contributed to my life improvement. I can start building my life in England and feel confident to contribute to society. I can now apply for a job which I could not have done before. Thank you.