Rwanda: young woman rejoins family after 15 years

from International Committee of the Red Cross
Published on 23 Feb 2010 View Original
Kigali (ICRC) - Today's date will be forever etched into the memory of Chantal, an 18-year-old Rwandan woman who has rejoined her aunt and siblings after some 15 years without news of them.

Chantal has been able to relish these moments of happiness owing to extensive work carried out in Rwanda by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). For many years now, the ICRC has been striving to re-establish contact between members of families dispersed by the armed conflicts that have beset the region in recent decades.

"I am thrilled to finally be reunited with my aunt after so many years," said the young woman. "And I am very happy to be able to live with my brothers and sisters again."

Chantal was orphaned and separated from her aunt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in July 1994, when she was only three years old. She was then taken in by a Rwandan foster family in that country. In 1996, she returned to Rwanda with her foster family to live in Gisenyi.

At the beginning of 2009, Chantal was registered by the ICRC, which started to search for her biological family. Various strategies, such as running radio spots, were used without success. It was only in December 2009 that the young woman was finally able to find her loved ones again thanks to the method of physical presence, which consists in bringing the young person near the family's presumed place of residence.

"The more time passes, the more difficult it is for young people to accurately recall names or where they came from," explained Dan Rukeba, who is in charge of the ICRC's tracing and family reunification programme in Kigali. "That is why our staff are sometimes asked, as a last resort, to try using physical presence. In Chantal's case these efforts paid off."

As part of its programme to restore family links, tomorrow the ICRC will repatriate from the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo 10 other Rwandan children separated from their relatives. The children will then be reunited with their respective families, who have already been located in various districts of Rwanda. Thanks to its tracing and family reunification programme, the ICRC has reunited over 14,000 unaccompanied children with family members in Rwanda since 1995.

For further information, please contact:

Emmanuel Kagimbura, ICRC Kigali, tel: +250 078 840 59 58

Dan Rukeba, ICRC Kigali, tel: +250 078 852 66 50