Wed | Aug 21, 2019

Africans flee to South America on dangerous journey to US

Published:Wednesday | July 17, 2019 | 12:23 AM
In this June 21, 2019, photo, Blaise Matshieba Nduluyele pauses as he speaks outside the Expo Center in Portland, Maine, about the dangerous journey he and his family made in order to seek asylum in the United States. He and his family have been provided temporary shelter in Portland along with hundreds of other African migrants, mostly from Congo and Angola. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
In this June 21, 2019 photo, Blaise Matshieba Nduluyele leans on a door to the Expo Center in Portland, Maine, where he and his family have been provided with temporary shelter along with hundreds of other African migrants, mostly from Congo and Angola. Blaise Nduluyele fled when an armed conflict erupted in his village in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In this June 21, 2019, photo, Blaise Matshieba Nduluyele speaks outside the Expo Center in Portland, Maine, about the dangerous journey he and his family made in order to seek asylum in the United States. He and his family have been provided temporary shelter in Portland along with hundreds of other African migrants, mostly from Congo and Angola. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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PORTLAND, Maine (AP):

When an armed conflict erupted in his village in Congo, Blaise Matshieba Nduluyele fled from the carnage. Hundreds of people, including some of his relatives, were slaughtered.

Death remained close as his family undertook a gruelling journey, starting in South America and extending through eight countries, to safety in the United States. They slept along roads or in the jungle. They got sick and nearly starved. They encountered bodies.

“I really didn’t think I would survive. It was really, truly terrifying,” said Nduluyele, now at a shelter with his wife and three children in Maine.

Nduluyele and hundreds of other Africans trying to escape violence and poverty are forgoing a journey to Europe for a longer, still-dangerous land route to the United States through South America. He chose the route after seeing accounts of Europe-bound immigrants being turned away, of drownings in the Mediterranean Sea, and of racism.

“When we talk of democracy, we see America. We see the United States. Me, I think that in the United States, I can express myself freely. I’ve been able to have security and protection – and that’s the reason why I chose the United States,” he said.

Before the massacre, Nduluyele worked as a vendor at a marketplace after a lack of money put his medical training on hold.

Speaking in French through an interpreter, he said he had little choice but to flee from Yumbi, on the banks of the Congo River, 300 kilometres (186 miles) from the capital, Kinshasa.

More than 500 people were killed during three days of clashes after the death and burial of a tribal chief sparked violence in December, the United Nations said.

“All of a sudden, a group showed up with machetes and guns, and they just killed everyone. At that point, I had to go,” he told The Associated Press.

Thus began the long journey to the US. The 34-year-old Nduluyele was joined by his 24-year-old wife and their children, ages six, four and 11 months. They travelled first by plane, bus and boat. When their money ran out, they covered much of the ground on foot.

The family flew from neighbouring Angola to Ecuador. From there, it was a winding four-month trek through Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico.

Hundreds of Africans have made the same choice, as have thousands of other Central American immigrants heading for the US border. In the spring, 500 African migrants were found walking in separate groups after splashing across the Rio Grande into Texas.

The danger of the crossing was underscored by a photo of a father and his daughter who recently drowned in the river. The startling image was published around the world.