Matabaro’s Story, Uganda
19 year old Matabaro Mark Elvis Elwabanga du Bois, Congolese refugee in Rwamwanja refugee settlement, south west Uganda.
“My name is Matabaro Mark Elvis Elwabanga du Bois; those are all my names. I live in Rwamwanja as a refugee, but I won’t forget that I’m Congolese. I can speak French and Swahili but I will tell my story in English because then more people can listen. Ever since I was born my mother suffered at the hands of my father; he used to beat her and he sent us to a boarding school so that we wouldn’t intervene. When we used to come back my mother’s hands would be broken and we would cry. He would say that it was because she was a Tutsi, they separated twice, but when they used to separate we were the ones who would suffer. One time when my mother separated from my father, my father started insulting us saying that we didn’t look like him, which meant we resembled Tutsi’s rather than Congolese.
After that we went to our mother’s place in Himbi and we stayed with her but we were visited by the M23 rebel group. My cousin was a part of the M23 and he always visited my mother. After that, when the M23 were chased from Goma, our cousin came and visited us which created problems. The government started looking for people who were visited by the rebels and my father reported us to the police station and told them that our house was the meeting place for the M23 group and because of that we were seriously attacked. It is a miracle we are all together as a family today because my mother went one way, I went with my uncle, my sisters went another way. After the attack my sister was traumatised and she was even sent to a health centre. When we reached Uganda, in a place called Nyakabande, we were reunited with our mother. Imagine your father being your number one enemy, so we all decided to change names to protect ourselves. That’s how I took my other names which are not even on my schooling papers. When I introduced myself I started saying my name is Matabaro, instead of Elvis Elwabanga. I pray to God I die in this country because it’s better to die here than to die in my own country.
In Congo we used to learn French but when I arrived in senior 3 I started learning English and my English teacher was my best friend. We used to talk on Facebook, and we spoke more to each other which improved my English. I was even able to get a job, I was recruited to work at LWF (Lutheran World Federation) as a community social worker. I sensitize people and mobilize them and when there are people with special needs I help them. I report individual problems to the offices so they can be solved. Not many refugees have worked here because of the language. I know how to talk with people and I’ve made many friends here and even though my job is not well paid it’s better than nothing. I enjoy the work because I see people in the village, I talk with them and have developed friendships and I understand and empathize with these people, which motivates me.”