The Power of Love over Conflict

By Patrick Bwira Baeni

Once upon a time in Kashebere, a village located in the Walikale territory of North Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, people were living together without any discrimination. I, Patrick Bwira, was born in Kashebere village. In the village were people from different parts of the country as well as from neighboring countries. People from Rwanda joined the village to live with others within the Kashebere village and its surrounding villages. These people came to our villages because they were fleeing a difficult life in their countries. The host community was so welcoming to these newcomers that they decided to give them land so that they might at least find something to eat.

I was 7 years old when we first welcomed Rwandans into our village. These people were very friendly, humble, and kind. That is why our first reaction was happiness, because we could find our brothers and sisters in them. Since they could also easily learn our language, the communication and interaction were very good with them. They were respectful of the local authorities and were ready to contribute whenever there was any kind of problem in the village. That made us become closer and closer to them. Another reason that made us closer was that these people were really good at agriculture as well as taking care of cows, sheep, and goats. Many of them had job opportunities to work for the farmers and keep cows in different pastures around the village.

Life went on very well in this village because there was a close collaboration between the host community and the guests, who were already contributing to the development of the country through different works they were doing on the farms. Their children could learn together with us in the same schools, sharing every service without any problem.

I remember having one friend in that community who had been bringing me fresh milk at school that we could share during the break time at school. because the community got developed thanks to their contribution through different jobs on the farms.

Late in the 1990s, a war called Kinyarwanda broke out in the surrounding villages, with the host community opposing the Hutu community that was welcomed in these villages. The source of the conflict was that the chief of Mahanga village was killed by machetes while he was coming back from his own farm. Then the Kanyarwanda War burned out from there and destroyed many things, including this good relationship that existed between the host community and the visitors.

My village was not spared because we were neighbors. Then Hutu people, Rwandans we were living with, started fleeing to save their lives.

One of our neighbors, who was also a Hutu named Kavakure, decided to stay in Kashebere; however, he sent his wife and children to a village in another territory that was safe. This neighbor was a friend to my father, and so he was to me. He was helping my father do the farming jobs and could do the cleaning at the hospital where my father was working as a nurse, as well. His children were friends to me as well as to my brothers and sisters; his wife was the friend of my mother; sometimes we had even shared a meal together; we could even share clothes and shoes with them. When the academic year started, my father was buying school materials for us and Kavakure’s children. We were like relatives with this family, and that was the case even before we separated because of the war and couldn’t do anything to assure their security. Then, during one night, all the family left, and Kavakure remained alone in Kashebere.

What was strange to me is that, at that very time, I developed a certain kind of great affection for him and decided to be sleeping with him in his house, because he was just himself with no one to assist him. I did that for a period of one week without fearing anything, and really nothing bad happened to me. People around me were asking me how I felt about sleeping in the same house with my enemy. But I was telling them that this one is not my enemy, even if he is among the Hutus. I love him anyway. I am sure he cannot do something bad to me, no matter how bad the situation is.

Those people could understand from my experience that conflicts are not able to break the loving relationship between you and your loved one. But the situation was getting worse and worse; Hutu people were being chased like rats, so he decided to also leave to join his family, where he sent them to hide themselves from the war.

When he told me that he was leaving, I hugged him a lot, and we separated.

9 May, 2023