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What it means to be Congolese – by Petronelle Moanda

13 March 2014 by Felicity

Petronelle stands next to her quote, displayed in the Brutal Exposure: the Congo exhibition

Petronelle standing next to her quote, displayed in the Brutal Exposure: the Congo exhibition

When we asked Petronelle Moanda, Operations Manager at the Congolese Association of Merseyside, if she’d like to send us a quote to be displayed in our Brutal Exposure: the Congo exhibition, we were moved by her incredibly honest and insightful account of what it means to her to be Congolese.

Petronelle will be a panel member at a free discussion, ‘The Congo: now and then’ held at the International Slavery Museum on Saturday at 2pm. She shares her account with us here:

“It is a blessing to be Congolese and nobody can become Congolese by might, by greed or by power!  There has never been an ethnic conflict in DRC.  We have lived with refugees from Rwanda, Angola, for years, with respect and tolerance all our lives and I still have friends to date despite the war.

The current conflict in Congo is a modern slavery lead by the international businesses needs for diamonds for jewellery, Cobalt for western weaponry, copper for their industry and especially of Coltan for iPhones, Blackberrys,  laptop computers and their missiles.  The demands  for these material continue to destabilise my country and gloss over or play down our suffering in the interests of business.

Perpetrators are known, British firms which are involved were named and shamed, I was at some meetings in 2001. No further actions were taken to date.  The international community has turned blind eyes.  For them I think Congo is a no man’s land, where anybody can go and fill their dirty need of resources.

I like Liverpool because of its cosmopolitan aspect, the warmth of its people. When I first came to Liverpool, I was lost on my way to the police station and a stranger took time to approach me and direct me.  He called me love and I felt that I was still a person and that some people could see me when I was walking to nowhere.  This person gave me hope to carry on my journey.  He reminded me of my country where we greet strangers, we offer them water,  food and without asking questions….  I felt home that day.  I wish I could see him again!!

It is a real pain to leave far from your loved ones, your friends and family.  To settle in a country where you have no roots, no link. My life has been different since (language limitation, unpredictable weather, different culture), I was lost when I came here.

Although I am catching up now, it is still difficult when I look back to the standard of life I had, and my position now, my stomach crumbles,  but I can’t help it!  I have learnt to live with it.  May be one day, I will go home;  I am grieving for my home country and other forms of distress linked to the migration;   I always have acute feelings of loss; of my homes, my social status, friends, relatives, families and familiar communities,  places of leisure. I was in hospital for 2 weeks depression and low self-esteem as a result of the loss and the standard of leaving as an asylum seeker; The way I was treated in general; I was about to end my days here in Liverpool.

Now my job status, qualification gap and salary level are my problems – I have tried to move jobs but job offers are always worse than expected – I am unable to get a job that reflects my wealth of experience and skills.  I am frustrated to be stranded in a low-skilled, low paid job.  Although I have a CMI Strategic Management and Leadership qualification, I think may be employers look at my name and don’t consider what I can offer to their organisation.  They discriminate me against my background and deny me the right to get a better job. These are my frustrations and I hope that this will change.”

For further details on the panel discussion, click here.

For further information on Brutal Exposure: the Congo, click here.

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