September 05th, 2008
According to our source in the region, a number of the Banyamulenge refugees are locked up in prison in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya for leaving their refugee camp in Kakuma, a 500 km from Nairobi. Close to 50 Banyamulenge refugees slipped into Kenya from the Democratic Republican of Congo in the past 4 years to escape genocide in Burundi where some of them were refugees and years of war at home. ‘We survived genocide in a refugee camp in Burundi in 2004 after an entire refugee camp was burned and over 160 massacred simply because they were Banyamulenge. Having seen that there was no protection in Burundi even in refugee camp, some of us decided to come to Kenya where they sent us in Kakuma refugee camp. Four years later, the same people who killed our relatives in Burundi, here I mean some congolese and hutu extremists have started once again threatening to kill us as they did in Burundi", says unnamed reufee in Kenya. As members of the Banyamulenge people, for whom the memory of the Gatumba genocide is still fresh in our minds, we cannot stand by as refugees from the genocide in Burundi are being tortured in Kenyan prisons for having fled for their safety.
John, one of the refugee group who escaped the Kenyan police, said "sneaking across the desert border from Kakuma into Nairobi was perilous, but worth it - despite that some of us are being sent to jail. Over there were threatened to be killed by the same people who have always killed our people".
"There are thousands of Hutu and Congolese extremists who hate Tutsis in that refugee camp. They were first afraid of expressing their aggressiveness towards us in the last coup of years although some individuals had always said that they will make sure we are all dead. But most of them were calm only with angry and hateful faces. We could have been killed at any time as that place is like a jungle," said John. The plight of the Banyamulenge refugees need to be looked at seriously and their safety should generate some kind of emergecy debate among all stakeholders including the UNHCR, Kenyan authorities, various western ambassies and refugee sponsors.
"On behalf of Banyamulenge diaspora in Canada, I urge all the above stakeholders to show solidarity with the Banyamulenge refugees in Kenya and Burundi and help find a solution to their safety",Human Rights Activist, Muhoza H. said. It is not acceptable that these people remain incarcerated and we urge UNHCR and western ambassies in the region to try as quickly as possible to find a way to have a speedy humanitarian solution.
It is clear to everybody that going back home is a problem for these Banyamulenge refugees. The conflict is not finished in their country. The Kenyan authority should know that the incarceration of refugees fleing for their safety is illegal and they should know that these people are survivors of genocide and should be treated as refugees.