The Narrow Escape

By Didier Samir


How would you feel if you lost both your parents on the same day?  What if it was even worse and you were an only child? What if you had no sisters or brothers? They were the only family I had ever known. When I asked my parents about their families, they told me that they all died during the genocide. They were the only survivors from their families.

I lost my parents in 2015. They were brutally killed by some people sent from Burundi. I remember vividly that day because I was with my parents. I witnessed everything. It all happened beneath my eyes. I still remember their innocent cries ringing in my ears. My parents are the reason why I am still breathing today. They risked their lives to save me. 

It all happened in the name of going back to our country. The government of Tanzania and the Burundi government reached an agreement to send Burundians back to our country. So they involved UNHCR and we were told that we could go back to our country because it was peaceful again. They said that our country needed us now more than ever.

I remember hearing the news of going back home. The community leader, Mr. Amidu, came to our house that day. He was a good friend to my father. He found us having tea. He was welcomed and he joined us. As we were drinking tea, he told us the news of going home. I felt some butterflies moving in my stomach and my parents smiled. I was 17 years old.

Many families agreed that it was safe to return and registered to go back home. My family also agreed to go back home. We were so happy that we could finally return. I personally was extremely joyous because I had never stepped foot in my country. I had been dreaming of going home ever since I was 13 years old. I thought of home as a place where I would have freedom because I always had this notion of “east or west home is the best.” I imagined home as a good place to live because there is a big difference between living in a refugee camp and your own home. 

We were told that we would be traveling in 2 weeks time. As the days drew closer, my happiness increased. Two days before the big day, it was in the middle of the night when we heard some knocks on the door. It was Masudi knocking. Masudi had been a family friend ever since I was 4 years old. He looked nervous and tense. He entered and whispered to my father that we should postpone going back home.  I overheard him. I felt broken and hopeless when I heard that. I felt like my dream of going home was crushed. He told us it wasn’t safe and their intentions were not genuine. We became so confused and didn’t know what to believe and what to do. But personally I was ready to take risks and at-least go home. My father was having doubts about everything. 

We decided to go anyway. When the day arrived, we all assembled at one place. We were many, this even included our neighbors. I gazed around and saw some familiar faces. This made me feel safe. I realized that we are not alone in this.  The UNHCR officials divided us into three groups because we were many and we were traveling by road. We boarded the bus and started the journey. We reached a certain forest and the bus which was in-front of us stopped. Some men in black entered the bus and it continued moving. We reached the same spot and stopped too. I felt like my heart was popping out of my chest. People in the bus were murmuring and some tears started flowing down their cheeks. I held my parents’ hands so tight while my feet were dancing because of fear. I was sweating like a pig.

Six men in black entered our bus. They covered their faces with masks. They pulled out machetes from their clothes. Three went from the front and others to the back. I was sitting in the middle of my parents. The men in face masks started killing people in the bus. The bus was in chaos covered with blood. Blood of innocent souls. My father had to push me through the window. When the men saw that, they rushed to stop my father but half of me was out. So they cut my father’s hands and inserted the machete in my mother’s stomach. Then my father struggled until I fell out of the bus. I ran into the woods. I saw some few people following me too. I knew that was the end of me. I stopped and raised my hands up. They were other victims running for their lives. When we looked back, those men were still coming for us so we couldn’t stop running. We saw a road in front of us and we breathed a bit, somehow feeling safe in the woods.

20 December, 2022