From refugee to refuge found

MY COUNTRY has suffered severely during my lifetime. In addition to recent warfare and civil unrest, the Democratic Republic of Congo endured decades of rule by an undemocratic regime, which fostered corruption, political manipulation, and financial malpractice. However, it was also during this time of suffering that I learned some very important lessons—about honesty, from my father's example; and about home, from the challenges that followed his stand for honesty.

In 1994 when Congo was still known as Zaire, the government set out to purge the payroll that was stuffed with fictitious agents. My father was put in charge of the list for the Department of Post Offices and Telecommunications for the whole country. This was a gigantic task and was to be carried out in secret within a certain deadline. My father asked me to help, and I put all my heart and time into this noble work. This effort would have saved our government several millions of zaires (the currency at the time), money that was making its way into the pockets of people under cover of immunity.

My father had to make a choice: join the mafia camp and pocket huge sums of money, or work for the good of the country. He chose to work for the country. Standing firm in the face of many pressures, we continued to assemble the list, and as a consequence of this, my father was let go from his department for three months without salary. He also received death threats. On receiving the letter giving him notice, my father replied that he would accept the consequences of this work with honor. However, we were to go through the most difficult period of our lives. There were days when my brothers and sisters and I went hungry, and we had only water to drink after we had exhausted all our savings. Concerned for my safety, my father ordered me to leave the country, for he saw that the country was corrupt at a high level and he no doubt wanted to spare me all that was happening to him.

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A good move
November 21, 2005

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