Congolese refugee, Safi Namikulo, 54, from Kiliba, South Kivu, pictured outside her home in Bujumbura, Burundi.
I was an accountant at the factory in Uvira, the Mai Mai came to search for money, my mother was Rwandese so they threatened to kill me if I didn't give them money. I couldn't give them money in the factory so they took me along with the HR person. I was blindfolded and we walked for 4 hours and then we took a boat to get to some islands on the Ruzizi river, we were kept on the islands for 3 weeks until my family paid.
I couldn't move, I was kept in a hut in the same place and then I was raped whenever they wanted. I was beaten also. They came individually at night time, around 8pm. I was afraid if I did something I could be killed. I was not chained but it was impossible for me to escape, the currents are very strong and I can't swim.
They had people in the north of our village and they told my family to go there and delivery the money. One Mai Mai brought me back to Roningo (10km north of Kiliba), I walked home and then I was very sick but I didn't rest because I was too afraid to stay so I took my family and we crossed the Ruzizi river [into Burundi] because the borders were closed at that time. The area where we crossed the river is not that deep and we crossed at night. When we reached Bujumbura I went directly to the hospital and I spent 1 month there. I had many infections and I had an operation, my uterus was taken away.
We don't receive much help, I work a little with groups about gender based violence and I council victims. My son works as a mechanic and provides for the family. Life here is very difficult; a simple example is when you are sick you have to pay 50% of the costs but we cannot even afford this. There's no advantage to being here in Bujumbura. This is the life of a refugee: to live one day after another. I would never have thought I would live in a house like this, when I lived in Congo I had a very big house. I had 50 cows b