Abuse in Refugee Camps – Hatima shares her story


The Community Empowerment Network (CEN) is a local community network providing refugee children and safe environment to live-in, free of war and conflicts.

CEN operates within Nyarugusu, a UN refugee camp in Western Tanzania, which is home to over 150,000 refugees making it one of the largest in the area.  The refugees are from Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Sudan and Ethiopia regions.

Refugee children have experienced traumas from war conflicts and have become targets of ethnic conflicts and discrimination even from their own people.  This has resulted in severe emotional and mental health issues amongst children as young as 2 years of age.

CEN vision is to restore and rebuild trust among the women and children of Nyarugusu by providing workshops on confidence building and self-reliance.  In order for them to make this vision a reality, they have reached out to community groups in the Western world.

As CEN’s Australian representative, it is my job to raise awareness of the inhumane treatment the refugees are subjected to on a daily basis.  They are cut off from Western communications and have asked me to publish their stories, in the hope that at least one person is touched by their horrendous plight to offer assistance.

childrenHatima a *pygmy from Burundian whose mother died in 2014 and her father was beheaded shares her story, in her words.  English translation by Mwami Muhale (I have not changed any spelling or grammar)

My heart is extremely painful.  I don’t know where to go or where I can run away.  Wherever I pass they cried out against me–pigmy, –pigmy–pigmy…The environment is not fine for me…I am not safe –I am insulted too much…they say they don’t want to see me.  

So I am very afraid to move out of the house…I can’t go to school, I can’t go to church, I can’t go to market, I can’t fetch water to tap-stand…  So I have nowhere to go–no happiness about my life, I have no peace, no safety no freedom to do what others are doing since I arrived here in the camp… I am discriminated…

I would like to go school and study but I am not confident–I’m afraid that people can laugh at me… My brother has been taking me to the Police for several times to report my case, but no help.  At last when I went to report on the gangs who came to insult me and wanted to catch at home, the police just gave me what they call RB No (a small sheet of paper that proves that your case is true)…I keep it at home.

Having been so afraid of the death of my father, I run away and join my sister who was married in a different region.  Three months after, I started going to school.  Unknown people started to ask me who I was and the name of father, on my way to school.  They finally came home and threaten to kill us; we cried out and got help from neighbours…

Then, I and sister thought that they were people who were in conflict with father on account of land, who joined a political party …as sister and I were so afraid, we then decided to flee from Burundi up to the refugee camp, here in Tanzania…

*A pygmy is a member of an ethnic group whose average height is unusually short; anthropologists define pygmy as a member of any group where adults are on average less than 150 cm (4 feet 11 inches) tall

According to Minority Rights Group International there is extensive evidence of mass killings, cannibalism and rape of Pygmies and they have urged the International Criminal Court to investigate a campaign of extermination against pygmies.  Although they have been targeted by virtually all the armed groups, much of the violence against Pygmies is attributed to the rebel group, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, which is part of the transitional government and still controls much of the north, and their allies.[26]

The Pygmy population was also a target of the Interahamwe during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.  Of the 30,000 Pygmies in Rwanda, an estimated 10,000 were killed and another 10,000 were displaced. They have been described as “forgotten victims” of the genocide.[27] The current Rwandan Pygmy population is about 33,000, and is reportedly declining.[28]

By one estimate, the total number of Pygmies killed in the civil wars in Congo and Rwanda is 70,000 people.  Source – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmy_peoples

Further links – http://www.survivalinternational.org/tribes/pygmies