The Pursuit of Personal Independence
From Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, to Miami, Florida, the journey to start one’s life again and the search for independence has not ended for the Makembo family. Sylvie Makembo, Chris, Elie, and Aud Bakala strive daily for personal independence amid new customs and a new language since their arrival in the Sunshine State.
Since the Civil War of 1997 and its ceasefire agreement in 1999, civil war militias, known as Ninjas, continue to be a force in the southeastern Pool region of the Republic of Congo. Brazzaville is part of this region. Many of these militias are armed with machine guns, machetes, and torches. Rape, murder, and looting are all products of the Ninja’s violence.
As of 2009, the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) reported over 27,000 refugees in the Republic of Congo. Thousands of displaced people fleeing this region and neighboring states end up in crowded camps; however, the Makembo family fled Brazzaville by foot and walked over 500 miles to Libreville, the capital of Gabon. In perspective, walking from Miami to Pensacola, Florida is nearly the same distance without the threat of violence and other dangers. After some years in Gabon’s capital, and facing migrant discrimination, the Makembos contacted the UNHCR and was then put in contact with the International Rescue Committee (IRC).
With aspirations to experience the museums, music, beach, and people of Miami, Sylvie, Chris, Elie, and Aud continue to carry on their lives in search of personal independence, work, and to feel at ease in their new lifestyle.