The last scoop of water shatters Munezero Moussa’s reflection in tens of small circular waves from lake Kivu, a couple of seconds later after the splash of that water over his eyes and as focus starts to reappear he notices a blurry white bald figure, around 50 meters away, in aiming position towards the lake. He frowns slightly in order to force sharpness and sees the “muzugu” clearly holding a camera.
– “Hey, hey! Come here and take my photo!” – he promptly shouts with a wet face. At first the photographer seems to ignore him but then looks up and smiles just to keep doing his thing.
– “Hey, hey,! I have a very big story to tell you which is also a very sad one” – the foreigner shouts back: “what story?”. Munezero then stands up and walks towards him, who by that moment has already switched all his attention towards the young Rwandan: “My name is Enric, what’s yours?” – “my name is Munezero, please take my photo”. Enric complies with some fast snaps while the Munezero squats on the lake shore, one arm over the other with a lost sight somewhere over the waters and breathing slowly: 1….,2….,3 breaths, on the fourth one he slowly turns his head towards the camera and says: “… this is my sad and ‘big’ story”:
– “I was born in Kigali in 1990, my mom an Uttu, my dad a Tutsi a mix that proved damned 4 years later when the rage took over the country: dad was killed for being a Tutsi and mom because she had married an ‘inyenzi’ (cockroach).
After the madness was over my mother’s family didn’t want anything to do with me since I was part tutsi and dad’s family didn’t either because I was a mix with the people that had just slaughtered their own. Only four years old and wandering the streets of Kigali, nights were tough I would sleep under banana leaves to protect me from the rain and during the day I would beg or steal anything I could eat.”
– “But were you all by yourself all that time?”
– “I met other kids, all in similar circumstances, we protected each other and teamed up to get food and safe shelter. Three years went by and our luck changed the day an old French white man approached us and offered the kids and I to go with him to an orphanage he had just set up in the capital, where we could get clothing, food, shelter and education. Some of the kids were suspicious but several of us accepted, this way I got to go to school and stay out of the streets for the following four years.”
– “Only four years?, what happened?”
– “The old French guy left Rwanda, back to France, after his departure it seems the budget was cut short, they had to let go of some of the older kids to give room to the younger ones they were finding in the streets, so there I was in the street again, this time at eleven years old.”
– “From then on I have worked in anything I’ve been able to, since I don’t have a proper education the only jobs I can do are hard-labor ones: construction sites, porter or just hustling at nights waiting outside the clubs and bars where sometimes customers want to hire a prostitute. I put them in contact with the ones I know, I get around 1,000 RWF every time I help them, on a good night i can get up to 2,000 RWF which I can use to eat, buy some soap and if I have enough somewhere to sleep. But most of the nights I end up here, in the park.”
– “What brought you to Gisenyi? this is 5 hours away from where you grew up in Kigali.”
– “When I was going to school I befriended a kid, whose family was well-off. He told me his family made trade business here, taking advantage of Congo’s border, they would trade with shoes. He advised me to move to Gisenyi where I could make a living, like they did. It turned out that this does not work so much if you don’t have a family with money backing you up. I’ve been struggling since day one.
Let me tell you one thing… Rwandans… we don’t like our people, we don’t trust ourselves. I see people here in Gisenyi all the time talking to foreigners, being friendly with them but their attitude changes when I approach them, they tell me: ‘get out of here beggar, you are a thief!’ – just because I have no money does not mean I want to take their money, I do deserve the same respect.”
– “I hear you brother…”