Am I safe?

By Didier Samir
Am I safe?

Am I safe?


I was compelled to flee my homeland due to political unrest, stemming from the political instability that plagued my country. Finding refuge within the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya was a respite, though humble, that allowed me to finally exhale. The Kakuma refugee camp, situated within Kenya’s Turkana County, was established in the early 1990s. Its inception in 1992 by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Kenyan government was aimed at sheltering and aiding refugees escaping conflicts in countries like Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia. In time, the camp extended its haven to those escaping persecution and violence in regions like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, and South Sudan. Now, Kakuma stands as one of the world’s largest refugee camps, providing sustenance, shelter, medical attention, and water to over 180,000 asylum seekers and refugees hailing from diverse parts of Africa.


Life in Kakuma is a challenge, marked by limited access to fundamental essentials such as nourishment, clean water, and healthcare. Overcrowding forces many refugees, myself included, into cramped tents ill-equipped to shield us from harsh weather fluctuations, encompassing both blistering daytime temperatures and freezing nights.


My journey in Kakuma began when I was just six years old, and I am now 24 years old. This extended stay has left me feeling stagnant and despondent, as hope for the future dwindles. Individuals’ time spent in the camp varies, some enduring mere months while others are confined for years. The rationale behind the differing lengths of stay remains obscure, as UNHCR seldom discloses its criteria for resettlement. I believe it hinges on an individual’s fortune.


My experience is further marred by a prior chapter in Tanzania, in the Nyarugusu camp, where I lost my parents upon seeking refuge from Burundi. Burundi’s unstable political climate, rooted in historical ethnic tensions culminating in genocide, propelled us to the safety of Tanzania’s Nyarugusu refugee camp. Tragically, my parents were brutally taken from me, an agony that remains the most agonizing memory of my life.


Genocide, sparked by the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic conflict, claimed numerous lives during those times. My parents, though, emerged as rare survivors within their families. My connection to them, a sole child, meant losing not just parental figures, but my only family. Their tales of lost relatives during the genocide underscored the depth of their tragedy.


The year 2015 marked the fateful turning point, when my parents were brutally murdered by agents sent from Burundi. I vividly recall the nightmare, seated beside them on a bus, as masked men infiltrated and launched a brutal assault on the passengers. My father’s desperate act of pushing me through a window saved me, yet at the cost of his own hands. My mother suffered a grimmer fate, a machete driven into her abdomen. Escaping into the woods, I fled the scene, forever haunted by that horrific memory.


The prospect of return came when Tanzania and Burundi reached an accord to repatriate Burundian refugees. UNHCR endorsed the move, urging us to rebuild our homeland. Eager to reclaim my roots, I embraced the promise of homecoming, only to be met with a sinister plot. Local goons, motivated by resentment and hatred towards us refugees, attacked my tent one night. I was beaten, robbed, and left broken. The authorities’ corruption and indifference to our plight added to the sense of insecurity in the camp.


Despite these trials, I persist, laboring at a food distribution center and pursuing vocational training in carpentry. These pursuits represent my resilience and aspiration to transcend the confines of the camp and forge a better future.

20 August, 2023