Noela Rukundo is one of the few people in the world who can claim to have attended their own funeral. That might sound funny, but her story is actually rather chilling, involving a vengeful husband, assassins with a conscience, and a trip halfway across the world.
It all started a year ago when Noela, a resident of Melbourne, travelled to her native country, Burundi, in East Africa to attend her step mother’s funeral. She was accompanied by her husband, Balenga Kalala, a refugee from Congo whom she had met 11 years ago. She used to translate for him when he first arrived in Melbourne, and they eventually fell in love, got married, and had three children. Over the years, Noela learned that her husband had suffered a violent past that had brought out an abusive streak in him. “I knew he was a violent man,” she told the BBC. “But I didn’t believe he can kill me.”
But that’s exactly what Kalala did, or had planned to at least. Suspecting that Noela was going to leave him for another man, an accusation that she now denies, he hired hit men in Bujumbura, Burundi’s capital city, to have her killed. As she rested in her hotel room after the funeral, Kalala called Noela and asked her to step out for some fresh air. And when she did, she found herself face-to-face with a man pointing a gun at her.