"I haven't seen them since then. As for me, I spent six weeks in the forest, in a little hut I had made out of leaves. When I went back to Shabunda, I found my house completely looted.
"My sister also fled to the forest; but as her husband works with the military, he stayed in town with other soldiers. When military activity started in the bush, the Mai Mai approached my sister and told her 'It is your fault if the military is here, it is your husband looking for you!'. She was taken as a prisoner, and used as a slave for four months. She was mistreated in all kinds of manners. She was raped by four to ten men every day.
"On the 25th of January the RCD took over Shabunda and the attacks started to be more frequent in the area It was impossible for the people to go out of town. The last fighting in Shabunda town took place in December 2000, at around 2 o'clock in the morning. It was very violent fighting; the Mai Mai faced a bitter defeat - they lost many men in the river.
"After Kabila's death, in January 2001, a "standby" period began, during which the population tried harder and harder to look for family members still hiding in the bush. They spread the news that the situation in town was good, and that people from the forest could make it safely back home. My sister left the forest at that period, together with her three children. The one she was still breastfeeding died of malnutrition soon after she came back. In December 2001 my sister fell ill, we don't know exactly what she was suffering from - she was in great pain. She died soon after.
"Since then I have never gone back to the forest again, and neither has my wife. We cultivate in our little garden, inside of town, to avoid going to the fields far in the bush. But life is very difficult; as many of my close relatives have died in the last years, mostly due to diseases and lack of health care, I am responsible for all their children - 23 people in total. Sometimes we don't eat anything the whole day. My stomach has become so used to it that I can't eat big quantities of food anymore."
© Sven Torfinn
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She was taken as a prisoner, and used as a slave for four months. She was mistreated in all kinds of manners. She was raped by four to ten men every day.