Byiringiro (L) with one of his employees at his workshop in Musanze District. (Jean d'Amour Mbonyinshuti)

Byiringiro (L) with one of his employees at his workshop in Musanze District. (Jean d?Amour Mbonyinshuti)

The 58-year-old resident of Musanze Sector in Musanze District would make furniture of various sort ranging from carpentry, welding among others. But fate came to him when he fled, leaving all materials and properties in the country.

He says he lived in the forest working with the FDLR militia for almost six years until he and some others handed themselves in to Rwandan authorities so they can be repatriated. That was in 2001.

Once in Rwanda, the career carpenter found life had changed a lot. There was nothing at his home to resume his entrepreneurial activities.

?I found all the things were looted and had nothing to start with. I was desperate as I had no hope to resume and earn a living as a former refugee and FDLR member,? says Byiringiro

But his hope was recharged and lifted when he and his colleagues were taken to the demobilisation and rehabilitation centre where they were trained in civic education and how to start odd jobs through a job creation initiative.

However, Byiringiro never needed any kind of basic training in the true sense of the word. What he needed was a start-up capital to re-engage himself in entrepreneurial activities.

?I had skills as I had been trained in various domains and had enough hands on skills to start my own business even without the basic training from the centre, but I lacked capital to start a business,? he says

A fresh start

Byiringiro spent some months at the centre acquiring rehabilitation training and other skills and received Rwf50,000 when he was discharged with his colleagues.

Byiringiro invested the money in buying basic materials.

?I bought scrap metal of iron sheets and other basic materials such as wires that I used to start the business, I made a welding machine and started welding with it,? he says

?I started welding for locals who brought their furniture and other construction materials and used to make little profit which I used to grow my activities,? he says

After a couple of months, Byiringiro managed to buy a carpentry machine and added this vocation to the metal fabrication that he was already engaged in.

He says that as he extended his activities and thanks to the hands-on skills he had, he gained clientele from all over. By 2005, he says, he already had managed to buy modern welding and carpentry machines.

?I worked hard and hired other skilled people as I was training others, I improved service delivery. The more I worked, the more my clients increased and my business grew, I started making huge profits that I used to keep expanding my business further,? he says

Byiringiro has managed to buy modern equipments he uses in his workshop such wood saws, welding machines, among others.

His workshop currently deals in making various products, ranging from furniture, and mills to cooking stoves. He employs more than 10 people whom he trained in various skills.

?I am thankful for the demobilisation programme and the government in general for the support they provided to me, I would have struggled to get the start-up capital but they supported me,? he says

Achievements

Over the past years, Byiringiro says he has achieved a lot, thanks to his skills.

?I have managed to buy necessary machinery worth over Rwf15 million, build a house of Rwf25 million, educated my seven children to university level and managed to take my wife to hospital when she suffered from a serious disease,? he said.

?I am now a happy citizen. There are some other members of the militia group who repatriated after they heard good news about us, but there are also others being kept captive and have no information about how Rwanda is peaceful,? Byiringiro says, calling for voluntary repatriation of those still in DR Congo forests.

Fidele Maniriho, 32, a father of four, says he was trained by Byiringiro and now boasts of skills that enabled him provide for his family.

I came here when I was still single and knew nothing regarding welding or carpentry, He (Byiringiro) taught me how to do things and I am now an entrepreneur. I earn over Rfw150,000 per month, which I use to support my family, I also have side jobs and my family does not lack anything,? he says

His future plan is to own land where he can set up his workshop permanently as he is now renting the place where he operates from.

Maniriho also plans to train more people in the area so they can manage to create their own jobs and be self-reliant.

?I am also planning to help my children get occupation without ending up as ?jobseekers? in the formal job market.

I plan to make machines making building materials such as gravels, bricks, among others,? he says.

But Byiringiro says he suffers from lack of modern raw materials. ??For instance, getting iron is not easy yet materials made from it are long lasting.??

Jean d?Amour Mbonyinshuti, The New Times

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