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Déborah Kitumaini Kasiba is the widow of eminent human rights defender, Pascal Kabungulu, who was assassinated in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) ten years ago. She lost everything: her husband, her belongings, and her country. Since then, she has been living in Canada with her six children. Despite the tremendous loss she has suffered, at 56 years old Deborah remains full of vivacity and courage.
Ten years after Pascal’s death and after years of ineffective judicial processes in the DRC, Déborah and her family have decided to file a complaint with the United Nations, with the help of CCIJ and Switzerland-based TRIAL (Track Impunity Always). Before filing this complaint, Déborah shared her story with us.
“On 31 July 2005, my husband had returned home from a trip to Rwanda. He arrived home around 8:30pm and we spent the evening together as a family. Pascal spent some time with the kids and we watched television together before retiring to the bedroom to sleep. In the middle of the night, one of my sons began to scream, and in turn I heard a threating voice yell out, ‘If you cry again, I’m going to kill you.’
My husband left the bedroom, while I ran to the window to scream for help. Men in military uniforms had entered our home and captured Pascal. They said: “Kama unakimbiyaka leo utakufa,” which essentially translates to “You have successfully eluded us until now, but today you are going to die.” I suddenly heard the sound of gunfire and of footsteps running out the door, before finally seeing that Pascal was lying on the floor of the living room, bleeding. I approached Pascal and held him in my arms, while my sons ran outside to ask the neighbours for help. Pascal was already unconscious.
Our neighbours eventually appeared and helped us transport Pascal to the local medical centre, but his injuries were so severe that he needed to be taken to the hospital. The doctors pronounced him dead shortly after we reached the hospital.”
“I am a widow. My children are fatherless. It has been ten years since we were forced to flee our country and live in exile, leaving everything behind us. We continue to live in fear, while Pascal’s murderers – who were clearly identified as the culprits – are living freely. These perpetrators stole Pascal away from us, and by doing so they stole a cherished piece of our lives.
Arresting and punishing the perpetrators will not bring back Pascal. Nevertheless, we are hoping that the United Nations and the DRC will ensure that justice is finally served, so that at the very least we can reclaim our lives without living in fear. There needs to be an end to fear, as well as an end to impunity.”
“We hope justice will bring us some peace. Although we have obtained Canadian nationality and we are very happy to be living in this country, we have also remained profoundly attached to our home country and miss it dearly.
I dream of the day I can return to visit the DRC, to see all my loved ones again, to breath the air of Bukavu and to walk once again on its soil, in safety and security, holding my head high and knowing that the men who killed my husband will no longer be able to harm us or others. I hope that this day will come soon!”
To read our full interview with Déborah, visit our Storify created in collaboration with TRIAL.
If you want to donate to Déborah’s case, please visit our JusticeFundr campaign.