A refugee dream

By Ashraf Mbonimpa

A refugee dream

I was born here in Kakuma refugee camp, a place I call home. A refugee camp located in the rift valley province of Kenya, with very high temperatures throughout the year making it a semi desert because we rarely receive rainfall. I am my mother’s only child. Her name is Siwa Kashindi. Siwa lost her parents back in our home country Congo. She fled our home country alone as the only survivor of her family. The rebels attacked their village and burnt their houses. She survived and escaped through the window. She met other survivors too and they had to flee to Kenya to seek refuge. They were brought here by Red Cross from the border. Red Cross handed them over to UNHCR and then brought them here in Kakuma Refugee camp.

Growing up in a refugee camp has shaped me to be the person I am right now. life has thrown so much at me and my mother, who raised me up on her own as a single parent. her life too has not been a bed of roses. a man called Matata approached her and he showed interest in her, but Siwa being Siwa, she was not interested in him and turned down his proposal.
Matata was brother to Asman who was the community leader at that time. So Matata thought that he could use the position of his brother to get whatever he wanted. He kept insisting but Siwa stood firm by her decision. One day, Matata came with some group of young men at Siwa’s house at night. She was staying alone. He knocked on the door. Siwa did not open the door. She was afraid. Matata and his men broke into the house. They entered and found Siwa frozen in fear. The men held Siwa down and Matata raped her. He then left happily because he had gotten what he always wanted. It was never about love!

It was such a horrible moment for Siwa. She was left there on the flow crying for help but no one was there to run to her rescue. Siwa was left with bruises on her body due to the way they manhandled her. So they had to beat her up so that she could cooperate. In the morning, she went and reported to Asman. Asman called the village elders and the elders forced and threatened Siwa to keep quiet. Siwa was told not to open her mouth or to go to any legal office to report even the police. Asman and his advisers deceived Siwa that it’s a taboo for a woman who has gone through that act to speak about it. They said that the community members will discriminate against her therefore she should not speak about it to any soul. She felt so bad. She had fear and anger. All she wanted was justice but she never got any. She was silenced by the same people who were supposed to take action and protect her. Siwa was abandoned and went through the pain alone. After some months, she realized that she was pregnant. The pregnancy was the result of the rape. She could not face Matata to tell him about the pregnancy, rather decided to carry the cross alone. I was the product of such a shameful act.

When she told me about that, I felt so bad, vengeance was running in my veins. How would you feel being a child of a rapist? I asked myself a lot of questions. Questions that I couldn’t answer. Why would your people treat you like garbage after all you have gone through in your country? Siwa’s pain could be felt even when she was narrating to me, tears crawling down my cheeks. I then decided that all I ever wanted is to advocate for the rights of the vulnerable groups of people in our communities. Many people are suffering and being looked down upon just because they can not open their mouths to speak for themselves. My dream is to create a safe and just society for all refugees. This is my refugee dream. I do not want to see other women going through what my mother and many other innocent women out there in this society. I intend to create a platform for them to speak up and also air out their grievances and decisions in this society. I have witnessed many women going through domestic violence, early marriage, forced marriage, FGM and other barbaric acts in this camp. This breaks me every moment I think about the hell they are enduring in this place.

This is my refugee dream.

21 December, 2022