OAD Student Represents Rwanda in Intercultural Human Rights Program and Reports on Current Refugee Plight
This summer, scholar Peninah was invited to join a group of young leaders from the US, Canada, and Australia in an interactive human rights learning and action program. The agenda included site visits with the US State Department and international NGOs working on conflict resolution and development.
After various site visits, Peninah put together a report (below) on current struggles faced by refugees in Rwanda:
“A place to call home” says most of the refugees when questioned on what they want, but what is home to these families? 15 years as a refugee breaks even the most hopeful man of all. A conflict they can’t understand, a life of hardships, unanswered questions and an uncertain future is what is reflected in the eyes of the people. Right to a nationality – a very basic right that most of us take for granted- is what this group has been deprived of for years now.
The DRC conflict is an overwhelming situation pushing to more than 18 years now. These refugees who are not being accepted in their own country are said to be called Rwandan while in Congo and Congolese while in Rwanda; a very depressing situation because none of the two countries is officially accepting these people as their own. In the colonial times some of the Rwandan conquered territory was cut and annexed to the surrounding country, DRC included. Over the time the people became Congolese but a conflict arose in the ’90s where the Congolese started chasing them back to Rwanda as Rwandans. Others are those who had fled the killings and wars happening in Congo over the past years.
During the GYC program we visited the one refugee camp named Gihembe and also had a meeting with some people of the Kiziba refugee camp. While at the camp we organized a all-day workshop with some of the refugee where we informed them our activities and agencies that can assist with their difficulties. Their main hardships are unemployment, poverty, and poor education. “We can only study till the third year of secondary, the last level that our only school has” were the words of 2nd year school student at Gihembe camp.
Most of the classes are in bad conditions and they are still used while waiting for the UNHCR to help. In the workshop, we informed them on their rights and legal firms in Rwanda who can help in the injustices done to them. We had time to answer their questions with the help of UNHCR officials. Most of which were directed on advocacy and human rights.
Refugee camps are often seen as a transition through a period of war or instability but the camps have become a home to many. A solution is all their hearts want, but whose responsibility is it? Congo, Rwanda, or UNHCR? The question remained in our heads as we went home.
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