Beaten for Love

By Derike Ingabire

I fled my home country Burundi when I was for years old because of tribalism and a conflict between my mother’s family and my father’s. My mum is a Hutu and my father is a Tutsi. My father was killed by his brothers because he refused to leave my mum and us. Before my father died from threats and torture, my mum took us to stay at the family of our grandfather from our mother’s side. My mum was attacked too, but she escaped after they set her house on fire. They followed us to my grandma’s place and also set her house on fire, hoping to kill us. Luckily, we escaped but my grandma sustained burn injuries.

We migrated to Uganda but my grandma thought that my mum couldn’t find us, so she sent her a letter detailing how to find us. Unfortunately, the letter reached our father’s brothers and they found us in Uganda and stabbed me with a knife. I didn’t die. It was the worst moment of my life. I felt like I was holding death in my small bare hands. I lost a lot of blood.

All the villagers were shocked and scared at the same time. This village leaders asked us to move away since they didn’t want more problems. The local security brought us to a bus heading to Kenya. I was still in total pain but we had to travel. It was a one-day journey to Kenya and we had no money to buy food. All I was taking was painkillers to help reduce the pain of the wound. When we arrived at the UNHCR office in Nairobi, they took me to the hospital to treat my wound since I was even urinating blood. We stayed in there for two or three weeks, sleeping outside the UNHCR office. We did not have money to buy food and water. We had to beg by the roadside to get something to eat. Sometimes we went to the hotels and restaurants to ask for leftovers.

On December 18, 2005, UNHCR gave us money to go to the Kakuma refugee camp. Kakuma refugee camp is located in Turkana County, a rift valley province in Kenya. People from all over the African continent and even Asia live there. They told us to go to a refugee camp because that is where we ought to be and because we could get help there. We were so happy that finally we are going to get help or maybe even a home. They also gave us some money for meals on our way to Kakuma. It took us two days from Nairobi to Kakuma. It was such long and a tiresome journey. Being a child with a knife wound travelling hundreds of kilometres I felt like I was going to die in that bus. We arrived at the camp by the end of the afternoon.

In 2012 I was still living in the Kakuma refugee camp. I often visited some Ethiopian friends who had a shop by the road side. One fine evening, I went to the shop as usual, and when I opened the back door, I saw the prettiest girl I’d ever seen. I was really surprised because I had never seen her before. I entered the shop and asked my friends to introduce her to me. They told her to speak for herself.

“I am Fauzia,” she said. “I’m new here in the camp. I came recently with my family and we live just near the shop.” Her voice was magical and it kept echoeing in my ears.

“They call me Dero and these are my friends,” I replied.

After a few minutes, Fauzia said that she wanted to go home. I asked to escort her and she agreed.

We left and on our way to her home, we had a little chat but it was all about school and how I met her friends. I felt so good talking to her. When we came to her home she asked if I wanted to go inside with her. I happily agreed, and she introduced me to her mother and her two brothers and a sister. Her family was so welcoming and friendly. I felt so good knowing her family and this kept drawing me closer to her. We exchanged contacts and I left.

The next evening I was lying on my bed, listening to music when my phone rang. It was Fauzia. She asked if I could escort her to buy bulbs and electric wires at the market. I didn’t think twice. We went to the market and I helped her buy those items and then I took her home. I helped them connect the wires and the bulbs in their house. The entire family was so grateful. They offered me tea and some bread. I ate and then left. At night I just kept thinking about her and our conversations. I could not sleep, so I decided to call her to asked her on a date. We decided to meet on Saturday for a date, it was all set, and I was so happy.

That Saturday, I woke up very early in the morning feeling very positive. I was so happy that finally had the opportunity to tell Fauzia how I felt about her. I was worried about how she felt though. My instincts told me she loved me too, but I was afraid she’d turn me down because I wasn’t from her community. I had to gather courage and prepare myself for any result. In the evening at around 5pm I took my phone and called her.

“I need to talk with you. Can we meet?”

“Yeah, sure. I will come around 4pm.”

“Thank you so much…”

At 4 o’clock, I was waiting for Fauzia, and I felt nervous if she’d show up or not. Half an hour passed, and just when I was about to leave feeling very sad, she showed up.

“Hey! I’m sorry I’m late! Did you wait long?”

“Hey! It’s ok…”

“Why did you call me?”

“I bought a small greeting card for you…”

“Thank you! Let me have a look at it.”

“Please don’t open it now, but when you reach home…”

“Okay, I will.”

“Do you remember when you said you loved me? Is that still true?”

“Yes I remember,” she said after being silent for a while. “But it was only for a moment it struck my mind.”

“Okay, I know I wont be yours, but at least I will have a word from your heart because we are from two different worlds”

“What do you want from my heart and what do you mean we are from two different worlds?” Fauzia said, staring at me.

“Just say your love to me, as we are gonna dig up and keep it inside. I am a Burundian and you are an Ethiopian.”

“The first time we met at the shop, I felt something inside me and the one thing I know for sure is that I want to be with you too but I’m scared.” I smiled and took her hands while looking at her.

“I am so happy hearing this. Am the luckiest man in the world. I believe that love has no boundaries and we will make it through, okay?”

“I love you and I believe you,” Fauzia said, blushing and with both eyes filled with tears. I could see the love in her eyes.

“Thank you. I too want to speak from my heart.”

“What do you want to say?”

“I will be always waiting for you,” I said, and then I kissed her on her cheek.

“I am so happy, but I have to get home now,” Fauzia said. “Talk to you later my love.”

We hugged then went our separate ways.

From that day on, we declared our love towards each-other. I took her to meet my family. They were happy to meet her. She also took me to her family and they were happy as well. Our love was really strong. We helped each other physically, emotionally, and financially. We spent most our time together planning for our future. 

One day, Fauzia came to me crying. When I asked her happened she told me her neighbor tried to molest her. He was an old man of 50 years who had a wife and two children. He went into Fauzia’s house when she was alone, and touched her inappropriately. He wanted to sleep with her. She screamed and luckily he ran away. When her mother came back, she told her what happened, and her mother reported to the community elders. I calmed Fauzia down, and in the evening I escorted her back home.

I stayed at her place for around 3 hours. It was already at night and it was very dark outside. When I left the house, I was struck by a big metal rod at the abdomen. I fainted on the spot. All I remember was hearing the voices of people screaming and crying. A chaos. The next thing I remember was regaining consciousness on a hospital bed the next day with Fauzia lying beside me. I was in agony. Fauzia told me she heard me scream outside, and when she ran out the house, she saw me lying on the floor. That old man who molested her was standing beside me holding a big metal rod. When she asked what happened to me, the old man told her that he couldn’t stand by while a boy from another community had what was denied of him.

Fauzia got very angry, and they got into a fight. She called for help and many people came. An ambulance rushed me to the hospital. Fauzia cried when she told me what happened. She was also blaming herself. I almost lost my life because of our love. All because I am a Burundian and she is an Ethiopian. 

Does love have boundaries and tribes? I am wrong to love someone from a different community and culture? I still ask myself those questions. I was bedridden for a week then I went back home. Fauzia stayed with me for all the days I was in the hospital. When I went back home, the elders from Fauzia’s community and the old man came to ask for forgiveness. I told them that I hold no grudge against anyone. I forgave them and they thanked me. They went back to their community. This is how I nearly lost my life because of love.

11 January, 2023