Surviving the Congo – Chocking story of El Memey Murangwa

During the Rwandan genocide 1 million people were killed
in a 100 days.

In 1994 the Rwandan genocide ended and the criminals fled
to East Congo.  They used 2 million
people as human shields. In East Congo they began killing Congolese-Tutsi. In
Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo the dictator Mobutu,
started having people arrested if suspected to be cooperating with the Rwandan
Patriotic Front which ended the genocide and overthrew the dictatorship in Rwanda.
Everyone has a struggle and perseverance story.  Imagine living in fear for your life for
weeks on end and surviving when it seemed that others around you were dying.
Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo El Memeyi
Murangwa has had an arduous journey to get to where he is today, Texas.  At first glance he seems like a pleasant
older gentleman who has lived a good life, healthy and is always smiling.
Beginning with his unforgettable smile, he takes me on
his journey through his capture, torture and release in the years leading up to
his coming to America.
The Congolese dictator did nothing to help his people,
imagine what it’s like for someone you follow and believe in to stand by and do
nothing when your friends and family are getting slaughtered day by day. 
When the Congolese people in the Kivu province had enough
able bodied fighters in 1996 they formed a rebellion and fought the Congolese
Murangwa had been writing about the atrocities as soon as
they had started.  “I only wanted to tell
the truth,” he said.
He often wrote thought provoking messages to the
soldiers, rebels and the citizens.  “You
have a gun but they don’t pay you wages so why are you fighting. What are you
fighting for? You make people suffer and are taking money from people.
Everything you do builds nothing.” Through his writing he often persuaded
government’s soldiers to join the rebelling forces.
Eventually, Murangwa was forced into hiding. October 1996
he fled with his brother and sister to Brazzaville in West Congo. 
By May 1997 they were able to return to their home in the
Democratic Republic of Congo.
The rebels had prevailed and forced dictator Mobutu to
flee the country.  Victory, however,
would be short-lived. 
The rebel leader Laurent Kabila gained power of the Congo
and became greedy.  Instead of uplifting
and bringing his people together, he became tainted and motivated by the riches
and resources that the Congo had to offer.
He and turned against his people.
The slaughter and turmoil began resumed.
Murangwa was the voice of his people again.  “You are the president you are supposed to
protect all citizens the same way.  But
what you are doing is wrong.”
Now it’s August 1998.
Murangwa must hide again.  “I did
not go anywhere because I was scared of getting arrested and getting
killed.  If anybody said there is
somebody from the east side of the country or a Tutsi. They will come and blast
the door and take you.” 
Eventually Zimbabwe and Angola came to help the Kabila
regime.  The fighting was back and forth;
the rebels would advance and then be forced to retreat.  After a while the Forced Army of Republic of
Democratic Congo (FARDC) fought off the rebels.
The killing still continued. 
“I watched on TV.”
He said, “They were burning people with fires, they showed the army just
killing people on the road or throwing them from the tops of buildings.  For hours I knew I was going to die.”
He saw them coming, the FARDC had finally caught up to
Thinking quickly Murangwa began to hide his Motorola
cellular phone and papers he had written.
There was no time to hide his diploma or other personal
identifiers.  He immediately began
burning the rest of the material he was actively working on. 
Murangwa thought it would be best to leave from the
balcony; as soon as he stepped out he was hit with the butt of an M-16.
Stripped, bound, beaten and bleeding he is hauled off to the Presidential
Prison Camp. 
Just when he’s at his lowest the journey takes another
Murangwa’s mood completely changes.  Instead of the joyful, energetic man that
began the interview, he was slow to speak, the smile had left. Although he
speaking and reflecting on his past, now it seems he is reliving them. One
could hear the struggle and pain as he spoke. He did not speak with hatred or
animosity but his words were piercing.
He continues.
The Chief of Staff happened to be at the camp and they
immediately recognized each other as childhood friends. 
Murangwa was sent to hospital and cleaned up. 
“They started giving me stitches without anesthesia, it
was horrible.  While I was there I could
hear people getting killed, crying, most of the time they would just shoot one
time and leave you there to die.”
By 6 p.m. that day he was being transported to another
camp where they weren’t being killed as fast because they were as dangerous as
others in the region.
Days go by and he is recognized again.  This time as the author who wrote against the
Transport again is arranged back to the first camp for
him to be executed.  When questioned on
the validity of the allegations he did not deny it. Not only did he admit to
writing the articles he welcomed death.
Of course he was sent to die.  The Congo River is where people were executed
and left to float river.  On the way to
the river a general calls the lieutenant and diverts Murangwa’s death.
He survived another day.
“I was thrown in jail underground; I stayed there for
almost 8 months.  The first months were
very hard. I went through electric wire torture and beaten,” he said.  “When it rained outside it flooded, I was
looking for something to eat in that water, but you know you had to do
everything in that water.”
He goes on to tell how every Monday he would get beaten.
Finally, selection came for the worst criminals to go to
the Congo River.  But he is recognized
again by a general and is spared for the third time. “I had been in the dark
for so long, I couldn’t see because of the light but when I heard his voice
call my name I smiled. He recognized me because of the gap”
The general took as best care of him as he could, he even
persuaded other officers to secretly send him food.
Ultimately that general was responsible for saving
Murangwa’s life. The general developed an intricate scheme to make it known
that El Memeyi Murangwa was still alive.
The general’s efforts led to the Vatican Ambassador visit
to the prison along with the Red Cross. Weeks after this meeting, Murangwa was
transported to a Red Cross holding place in Benin, East Africa where he
received his visa and sent through health and background checks.
Six months later he boarded  a flight headed to New York, his first stop
before his arrival in Texas.
Its hard to understand how someone who has seen so much
death, sadness and pain could keep a smile on their face and be friendly to
everyone they meet.  El Memeyi Murangwa
remained humble, “I smile because I’m a
positive guy who learned that in every though situation, God is going to
provide a solution and will always send someone to help you and care about
El Memeyi Murangwa is a true hero and should be an
inspiration to everyone. Murangwa has showed that through unshakable faith
anything is possible.  He has already
defied the seemingly impossible and continues to be better day by day.  He is a man everyone could respect.
While in Africa Murangwa obtained a business management
degree, here in Texas he received an Associates of Art from Tarrant County
College and is currently a senior expected to graduate May 2014 from the
University of Texas at Arlington with Bachelor in Communication.

One thought on “Surviving the Congo – Chocking story of El Memey Murangwa

  1. brother elmemei murangiwa remember me in camp kokolo and cite inss com monga nfula my name mupoto kangambo celestin call me i’m lincoln states nebraska call me 402-770-6443 thank you

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