MASERU — A homeless Congolese refugee family, with a nine-month pregnant woman and two young children, has rejected a house offered by the government saying they would be attacked at night.
Mushanalira Dieudone and his pregnant wife, Rehima Godelife, said they would rather live in the cold than move into the house in Lower Thamae.
One of their children is asthmatic and Godelife could give birth at any time.
The children last attended school in April.
The family told the United Nations acting resident coordinator, Jacob Mafunda, on Tuesday that they would rather sleep in Lower Thamae’s dangerous streets than move into the two-roomed house offered by the Refugees Commissioner Mohlolo Lerotholi.
The family which came to Lesotho in 2008 has been homeless since April when their government-issued house was torched by unknown people and they lost everything they owned.
Godelife said before that she was attacked by unknown men who held her by the neck and tried to force her into their car.
She was rescued by security guards from a nearby school.
She said the house, situated in Lower Thamae near the Lesotho College of Education, “is very dangerous for my family”.
Dieudone said after their initial house was burnt and Godelife was attacked Lerotholi refused to find them another place to stay.
They then spent the winter “squatting” in other people’s houses.
Mafunda, the UN official, had visited the Dieudones to persuade them to accept the house as a temporary measure while he waits for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to come from Pretoria in South Africa to attend to their case sometime this week or early next week.
“The UN can only do this for you until experts from the UNHCR come and in the meantime accept this house as your home,” Mufunda pleaded with them.
“You must understand that at least you have shelter. The coldness in the streets is not good for you,” he said.
Although they said they appreciated that the UN had talked to the home affairs ministry and mediating between them and Lerotholi, they were not going to move into the house.
“My family will not live in this house. It is better to live in the streets and die there, we are not going to die in this house,” Godelife said, weeping uncontrollably.
Dieudone said on several occasions Lerotholi threatened to have them sent back to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where they have fled from the government’s alleged persecution.
“This man (pointing at Lerotholi) does not want us and that is why he is forcing us to stay in this house so that we will be attacked at night,” Dieudone said.
“He took us out of the refugee camp, I do not know why, and he put us in this house so that we will be attacked,” he said.
The couple demanded that the government should provide them with security and then they would agree to stay at the house.
Lerotholi responded that security was the issue for the police not the refugee commissioner or the UN.
“We are not the police but if the police feel that you need permanent security here they will provide that. It has nothing to do with us, everybody gets attacked here and you are not the only ones,” Lerotholi said.
Mafunda told them that even him, despite that he is a UN official in the country, has been attacked three times.
On Monday night the family wanted to sleep at the UN House gate but a security manager at the house, Lekhooa Ramokhoro, expelled them.
“Do not press me to do a thing I will regret later,” Ramokhoro told them.
“Get out of these premises now and find where you can spend the night, safely and warm,” he said.