Agappe was born and raised in the town of Masisi, in southern end of the Nord-Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo until 2008, when fighting broke out in Nord-Kivu. His mother led her family out of the warzone on a bus to Kampala, Uganda. They stayed in a refugee camp on the edge of the city for a few months before continuing onward to Nairobi, Kenya. Agappe’s family remained in Nairobi for nearly 5 years, living as urban refugees.
Currently, 58% of the world’s refugees reside in cities, which contradicts the commonly held perception of refugees living in camps. Struggling to find steady work in Nairobi’s difficult job market, Agappe’s mother set about the process to bring her family to the United States. After some time, they were finally approved in 2012, and have lived in Indianapolis ever since.
Since the colonial era, the history of what is now called the Democratic Republic of Congo has been characterized by alternating periods of armed conflict and kleptocracy, permeated with human rights violations on a very large scale. The most recent Kivu Conflict, begun in 2004, is rooted in the longstanding strife between the Hutu and Tutsi people, as well as struggle for control over the region’s natural resources. The three major belligerents of the Kivu Conflict are as follows:
Over the course of this conflict, ceasefires and peace treaties have been made and broken, militias have sprung up and disappeared, allegiances have shifted, and the civilian population has endured tremendous suffering. All three of the previously mentioned belligerents have been accused of human rights violations over the course of the Kivu Conflict: widespread sexual violence, forced labor, human trafficking, unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests, disappearances, torture, and recruitment of child soldiers, to name a few. It is these conditions that forced Agappe’s family to leave their home in search of safety. By the end of 2015, a total of 541,500 refugees worldwide originated in the DRC.