Kangura No. 30

We, the Burundian Refugees Settled at Gisali, Live Under Bad Conditions

Jean Mbo Ngirimana

We fled our country in 1988 and have lived a difficult life just as all refugees. Since then, living conditions have not changed. Life under a tent is extremely painful. If at least we had work, in government services or elsewhere, if we could even till the land or do some petty trading… but to spend all this time without being able to move!

We fled war to seek refuge here in Rwanda, a country that we know has many problems: economic, political and population problems. To turn to the Rwandan Government to meet our needs would, to my mind mean to worsen its problems. We want to acquire true refugee status to be able to work, for those that could, but we are not getting it. We have asked for refugee identity cards from the High Commission for Refugees (HCR) in Kigali, but the latter says that such documents were issued by the Rwandan Government. Having seen our wishes rejected, we requested for facilities to be able to seek refuge elsewhere and find somewhere to settle down. We were also told that such a request should be addressed to the Government. Rwanda is suffering from a population problem. Could it refuse to let us go to places where there is space for us to settle down? We are told that Rwanda wishes to keep us on the spot. Why does it want do so? Such an answer is difficult to accept. Does the Rwandan Government want us to be able to survive with such meager means? If this is as a result of the work of HCR employees in Kigali and if this is truly the work of the Rwandan Government, the latter will sooner or later find out that our complaints are truly well founded…Did we flee death in our native land only to live such a difficult life in our country of exile? We are asking the Rwandan authorities and Government top look into our complaints and to find a solution.

I know that after all said and done - it is you that are maltreating us… Imagine yourself: someone runs away from his country whilst yet a student and cannot pursue his studies whereas the means are there, with the excuse that he is too old, that he should not spend all his life in school although he holds a student’s testimonial. Is there any iota of justice in all that? Where is, as you see it, the future of that person? Imagine it yourself. Someone who was going to school. He had no occupation hitherto because he was hoping to be able to finish his studies first. Then he is told that there is nowhere for him to finish his studies! If they do not come to our rescue, we, as well as our children - if we have any - what will become of us? Wouldn’t our children become thieves or criminals of all sorts? If nobody any longer comes to the rescue of those they are supposed to assist, what would become of the future of our country?

The education of the citizens is ensured by those that are able to guide the youth of a country and the future of the latter depends on it. Consequently, in the future, our youth will be composed of bandits and people that are good for nothing.

Imagine someone who was going to school and had only one or two years left to finish his secondary education and then all of a sudden it is all over! Who would be proud of such a situation? You who are now reading this, if you were in such a situation, what would you do? And when we complain, we are told that our complaints have no grounds…! Since our problems are not resolved by the Rwandan authorities as the HCR officials in Kigali would make us believe, we are calling upon the authorities to intervene in our favor with the HCR so that we are given reasonable treatment. Since the HCR officials do not want us to get anywhere, let the Rwandan authorities get them to see that anything can change in this world and that one day they could find themselves in a situation similar to ours. We have other more pressing problems: We left our country recently in the month of November 1991 and left some of our loved ones there. Some have been killed, others escaped death but have no means of seeing us because they have no identity cards; they live in fear! Why could we not visit our loved ones whereas we are all refugees in the same country and we are brothers?

We were not able to see our families because they were still in the country of Buyoya. Now that we are refugees in the same country, why are we not allowed to see each other? It is not forbidden for people of other nationalities to see each other; why is such a restriction applied to us? Sooner or later, the burden of sadness that weighs down on us because of this woeful life will push us to a tight corner. The weak shall succumb and those that patiently wait shall become deranged because of sadness. You, to whom God has given a merciless heart, allow those that must die to die! To those that he has given compassionate hearts and that are sensitive to the sufferance of their people, please come to our rescue!

Gisali, 28 December 1991