A stunning and heartbreaking lens on the global refugee crisis, from a man who faced the very worst of humanity and survived to advocate for displaced people around the world
One day when Mondiant Dogon, a Bagogwe Tutsi born in Congo, was just three years old, his father’s lifelong friend, a Hutu man, came to their home with a machete in his hand and warned the family they were to be killed within hours. Mondiant’s family fled into the forest, beginning a long and dangerous journey into Rwanda. They made their way to the first of several UN tent cities in which they would spend decades. But their search for a safe haven had only just begun.
Hideous violence stalked them in the camps. Even though Rwanda famously has a former refugee for a president in Paul Kagame, refugees in that country face enormous prejudice and acute want. For much of his life, Mondiant and his family ate barely enough to keep themselves from starving. He fled back to Congo in search of the better life that had been lost, but there he was imprisoned and then forced to work as a child soldier.
For most refugees, the camp starts as an oasis but soon becomes quicksand, impossible to leave. Yet Mondiant managed to be one of the few refugees he knew to go to college. Though he hid his status from his fellow students out of shame, eventually he would emerge as an advocate for his people.
Rarely do refugees get to tell their own stories. We see them only for a moment, if at all, in flight: Syrians winding through the desert; children searching a Greek shore for their parents; families gathered at the southern border of the United States. But through his writing, Mondiant took control of his own story and spoke up for forever refugees everywhere.
As Mondiant once wrote in a poem, “Those we throw away are diamonds.”