1. Can you tell us about your historical background?
My name is Elias Msoshi and I am a young entrepreneur born into a poor family in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Now I am 29 years old, and live as refugee in the Nyarugusu camp in Tanzania. As It is known universally, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been experiencing many periods and events of atrocities and endless civil wars through all its corners. In 1996 when I was still young old, I was forced to flee my homeland to look for peace in Tanzania. This event, however, had a particular and lasting impact on me. I witnessed people committing illegal killings without any reasonable ground. I experienced fear and violence, the effects of which are enduring. As victim, I watched my community being destroyed and was separated from my parents in the chaos. My fellow children were abducted by combatants and forced to be child soldiers or sex slaves. Due to the turmoil, an estimated 120,000+ refugees from DR Congo have fearfully escaped to Tanzania, the majority of which were women and children. I was very young when the civil war forced me to quit my country to live as an orphan in the refugee camp. The severity of the problems and their enormous consequences has, in turn, forced me to ask myself: What can I do to help my fellow children? This question is what constituted the birth of the idea for the Refugee Youth Empowerment Network, or RYENET.
2. What is a refugee camp, can you explain?
I have been living in Nyarugusu camp in Tanzania for more than 15 years. It takes courage to be a refugee!
To me, it is profoundly hurtful that in Nyarugusu camp, where I have been living since 1996, children and youths live surrounded by many challenges. They experience social, economic and even educational problems. These problems include stigma and sexual and gender based violence, insufficient means of livelihood, unemployment and difficulties accessing higher education, and uncertainty of peace restoration in their homeland.
3. Can you tell us a bit more about RYENET program?
Standing for the rights of young refugees while helping them share their concerns with others globally is my top priority. In 2018, I started a special program in Nyarugusu camp called the Refugee Youth Empowerment Network (RYENET) because I was aware that there were a lot of children going through even worse problems. I was moved by the way children were raped and isolated. It reminded me my own past. So I pledged to run the RYENET program to give the refugee children and youths a space to tell their stories so the world can understand their concerns. As you may know, this program is still young, but is now growing rapidly.
Initially, the program was run as small club of more than 30 young refugees meeting each week to discuss about key issues that affect them at the camp. So, instead of being taught
what we should do and should not, the program put us at a position to look at our problems objectively by suggesting ways we can work together to solve them.
4. Why did you decide to start the RYENET program in the camp?
By initiating RYENET, my ultimate goal was to advance child rights as stated in The Tanzania Law of the Child Rights Act 2009.
According to the Child Act, it is against the law anyone to treat a child unfairly because of their age or gender. However, these laws have highly been violated in Nyarugusu camp. Refugee young, particularly girls, face huge problems of sexual violence, exploitation and lack of access to post-secondary education among others; these problems go on to create poverty and worsen the effect of sexual abuse and HIV/AIDs. Unemployment rates are extremely high as well. Seeing all those problems firsthand, I pledged myself to stand up for what is right. That is why I took my own decision to start RYENET, which seeks to take children and educate them.
5. What vision do you have in doing so?
I envision RYENET becoming a global youth hub which brings together like-minded groups of peace builders – such as schools, universities, research institutions and NGOs – who sit down with refugees to hear the tragic accounts of their life and journey for a policy solution at a global level. To me, this vision has become a lighthouse for the development of the RYENET program. I attempt to make my vision become true by sensitizing other youths globally to stand up and speak out as human rights activists. This vision helps me to be enthusiastic and ready to cope with the challenging environment of the camp while spreading the gospel of justice and peace to the whole refugee community. This dream, lastly, gives me strength in generating ideas, innovation, knowledge, and determination to fight against any kind of injustice and inequality addressed to refugee children. But, my dream would go astray without the stake of my fellow young refugees.
My name is Isaac Mwenebatu, a 23 years old Congolese refugee currently residing in Nyarugusu camp, Tanzania. I escaped violence back in 1996 in DRC and fled to Tanzania with my parents due to fear of persecution. The year 1996 is extremely historically significant and full of bad memories in my life, especially memories from when I was in the South Kivu province where I was living when the war broke out and is still ongoing. Why is 1996 a historical year? The reason lies in the mass killing cruelties that occurred in different regions of South Kivu. All were persecuted including children, young people, parents, old people, men and women. Women were forced to give birth and then killed. Sons were obliged to sleep with their mothers and sexually abuse young girls. This is extreme cruelty!
People had to sleep under the moon and eat unsafe food in order to survive. This kind of cruelty, from which we fled, is still observed here in the Nyarugusu camp in different ways. We are given a weekly ration to cover a whole month. Health services are inadequate. The only illnesses being treated are headache, wounds and other related pains of body. Apart from that a patient’s only hope is to pray to God without ceasing so as to get transferred to a good hospital out of the camp. This the reason behind the extreme rate of death of refugees.
Educational services are underrated. People do not go further than getting their six certificates. This causes a lack of professionals and high skilled people in our community. In fact, I have spent almost a half of my life time as a refugee due to the ongoing insecurity and the war that broke my home country, which is engraved as bad memory in my mind something which could not happen to the next generation any more.
I am much grateful to RYENET network which helps me share with the people around the world about Education. Through this network, I hope that the great majority of young people around the world who will join will know enough about the real and difficult life of refugees and challenges they are facing.
Therefore, I hope we as young refugees, especially those who are in the RYNET, can understand the challenges and struggles young people are going through. I believe in fruitful outcomes and a change of attitude and way of thinking.
My name is Amris Fredy, I was born in 1996. My parents fled the war from militia groups fighting the government in the DRC. At that time my mother was pregnant with me. In 1996 my parents fled to Tanzania empty handed. I was born in a very tough period as my parents struggled to care for me.
At that time, life was more difficult in the camp than it is today; in the past, the camp had insufficient food – a bi-weekly food ration to cover the whole month--unclean water that is extremely limited, and inaccurate treatment leading to a lot of deaths in children refugees.
Our life in the Nyarugusu camp is similar to that of prisoners who lack freedom of movement and education. However, I am grateful for the RYENET that helps us learn more from other young people around the world.
My name is Twizerimana Aline. I am a 23 year old young girl and student at Fraternity secondary school here in Nyarugusu camp where I am studying biochemistry. Every time I recall my past I feel very sad. I was born in 1997 in Burundi. A few years after I was born, my family faced very fierce persecution during the civil war in our country. A rebel group who invaded our territory conducted a fierce war against innocent citizens about social discrimination. This war caused mass genocide. During the war, my mother was killed. For fear of also losing his two daughters, my father decided to flee with us.
A few days later after the death of my mother in 1999, we crossed the border of our country to the neighboring country of Tanzania where we have been hosted in the Nyarugusu refugee camp. Being in the camp has been precious to me because I have been able to make lot of friends that are peace lovers like me. Frankly speaking, every time I hear or get notified of war victims, especially young children, this makes me very sad even though we are not related. Because of this, it has been my life's dream to save people’s lives. Still, I didn’t know how to start with the process.
For this reason, I am thankful to RYENET for supporting my dream of becoming a young
ambassador, or someone who struggles for an equal, peaceful, joyful world. The opportunity I was given to join RYENET has opened doors for me to share perspectives, opinion and vision with peace lovers, including world decision makers. With RYENET I am now running the race to heal the world!
My name is Shomari Ferdinand. I am 20 years old and am presently studying Agribusiness at Amitie secondary School in the Nyarugusu refugee camp. To be honest, my past is contains a very tragic story. I was born in 1998 at KARAMBA village in DRC, a few years before rebel groups attacked my native village and committed very fierce crimes. Despite my young age, I witnessed a lot of inhuman deeds. During that civil war, those rebel groups killed lot of innocent fellow citizens. They raped mothers as well as little sisters; they captured boys intending to compel them to join their teams. My parents, after being rescued several times, decided to take my two siblings as well as me and flee.
On the way, we met with several war-orphaned children who fled alongside us. We had a tragic long journey. We spent days and nights walking and sometimes we barely ate. We climbed mountains and crossed streams. Then, finally we reached the village called Yungu where Good Samaritans provided us with a boat by which we crossed the lake Tanganyika so we could stay in Tanzania for the rescue of our lives. My presence in Nyarugusu refugee camp here in Tanzania is something much appreciated for me because it saved my life and I am safe here in the camp.
However, my heart is never peaceful when I hear of and see mothers, young girls, young boys, and most importantly children coming from the DRC and Burundi experiencing the same situation as or even more than I did. So it has been a big dream of mine to come out of these vulnerable groups of people into the wide world to try to make the world a better place. But I didn’t know how to start. For this reason, I am very thankful to RYENET for the opportunity it gives me to share ideas and opinions with others to help us understand how to practice the theory of peace effectively in our daily life. I believe that by working together we can change the world and make it a better place.
My name is Lwendo. I was born at Makobola village, Fizi territory in south Kivu province, in Democratic Republic of the Congo. My mother’s name is Zamda. She currently lives in Nyarugsu refugee camp in Tanzania with her husband Chishibanji and us, her kids, who now number five. I am 23 years old holding a certificate in informatics awarded to me at Amani secondary school in the camp.
My tragic journey begins in 1999 in our village Makobola where I first attended my primary school. In our school, during break time, we used to play with fellow students in schoolyard. One Saturday morning while I was doing a play on the school grounds, I saw tons of people running away and crying in despair. I saw the entire sky filled with black dusts with sparks of fire caused by gunshots. Armed groups invaded our small village early Saturday morning to cruelly shoot on a number of people with zero tolerance. Every one of you, I trust, should know that women and children were the most affected population during that situation. Of course, women and children were the ones treated like cripples, like nothing.
During the invasion, it was dangerous for villagers who had tried to leave their houses to escape that morning because the rebels had already have encircled our entire village. They meant to carry out a mass killing. I remember when I watched our own houses burn, girls and women raped, and others killed; there was no exception of boys who were abducted and forced to be child soldiers. The report by the Congolese government testifies that "a considerable of people, including women, men, children, and old people have lost their lives in one day, something which ranked Makobola village as one of the first war affected area in Fizi territory” followed by the village of Kazumba where such a mass killing occurred again.
It would be a long story to tell you all about when, in the middle of the night, my father knocked at the school door where I was and saved me. I am lucky that we successfully climbed a high fence on the school border with my parents before we joined our family members. After judging the situation, my parents decided to flee with me in Tanzania. We then travelled through a small boat crossing the Lake Tanganyika till we reached the Kigoma province in Tanzania. Therefore afterwards, we have been hosted in the largest, overcrowded area known as Nyarugusu refugee camp where we are currently.
My name is Safari Rutebeza Antoine. I am a 23 young boy currently studying Biochemistry at one of the secondary schools called College de la Charite. It’s a long story how I found myself confined in Nyarugusu refugee camp.
The civil war in Democratic Republic of the Congo compelled my parents to take me and flee to neighboring Tanzania with my young brother in early 2004. My story begins in the Uvira territory. Facing the invasion by rebel groups in this territory, my parents felt we were in danger of losing our lives.
I was at a very young age when we travelled on foot with a group of boys and girls orphaned by the civil war. One of many such boys I can remember is Baruani Eustache Ndume who later became the winner of ‘an International Peace Prize’. Here is the award link: www.kidsRights.org/baruani-ndume.
It took us three weeks to climb the tall rock mountains. Sometimes we climbed at night, with nothing to eat and obliged to sleep in very bad conditions. During displacement, many boys were lost, many fell sick, and many others died before we reached the peninsula of Ubwari. It was very scary! With this situation in view, my parents took a small boat and we crossed the Lake Tanganyika, before we arrived in Nyarugusu refugee camp in Tanzania.
My family was excited for having saved my life. Living in the camp was of course at the time wonderful and horrible. This is because I found myself in a safe place where I could live with other children, but I couldn’t forget my tragic journey and had to think on it every time so I always felt upset and hopeless.
It was exactly during this period of many thoughts that Baruani told me about his SISI KWA SISI (Children for Children) program and later, RYENET. The process of adapting to RYENET was not an entirely smooth one. While my friend was by now something of a professional at adaptation, it was still a real challenge for me. One such challenge was fitting in on the RYENET team. But the encouragement techniques used by the RYENET became a source of much inspiration for me.
Thanks to RYENET, now I feel I am able to share with experts around the world new perspectives, opinions, and visions of what I believe is right for how to deal with and address the refugee challenges. I feel that I am able to discuss with peace lovers about how to put the idea of peace into practice while interacting with fellow youths in different countries who have the same enthusiasm in peace. It is my hope that through idea sharing, we will be able to implement plans focused on fostering peace in our community. Making our voices heard is just the first step for peace to happen.
My name is Patience Wa Kilongo. I am a 17 year old young boy from a Congolese family. My parents were dwelling in the town of Kalemie before coming to Tanzania. Kalemie is located in the province of Tanganyika, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I was born in a village called Sunuka which is located in the province of Kigoma here in Tanzania. I lived there before entering the Nyarugusu camp where I am currently living as a refugee. My parents passed away several years after our arrival in the camp. It takes courage to be orphan!
I have been cared for by a foster parent with four children of her own and who had to struggle to care for the education and health of all of us. My childhood was of course filled with sadness. It was a very hard life. I can’t imagine it now but it was a very tough life to the extent I started to hate myself and felt very sorry for myself.
One day, Mr. Elias Msoshi, founder of the RYENET, came by our home for mobilization. Elias began by telling me what it is like to live in a refugee camp, and the responsibilities we have as youth to find opportunities to shape our own future and that of our community. However, having grown up in such a scary environment, with all my miseries, it took a while for me to understand and get involved.
After several visits and discussions, I got inspired, informed, and connected on local issues. Beyond that, discussions helped me dig into the details so that I could understand the importance of youth in the plan for development. Now I can’t get myself off the hook – I want to play my part.
I am a well-loved and respected student at our school where I am pursuing my diploma in social work. As the living testimony of a extremely harsh life, I focus on devoting my time to mobilizing my community to help orphans become the responsible adults they have the right to become. I will keep doing my best to ensure this vision becomes a reality.
I expect to bridge differences in terms of culture, understanding, and knowledge in order to foster sustainable love and compassion. I want to gain knowledge as well as learn more about teamwork and other new things. I also want to be a responsible citizen of the world.
Most importantly, I hope that knowledge sharing between you and I will clarify what action needs to be taken to combat injustice and restore peace in my community.
I’m so grateful for being given this opportunity to tell a short story about my life.
My name is Imani Sadiki, I am a young boy aged 21, born at Baraka, Fizi in DRC. I am the 7th in a family of 9 children. I was born during the war which started in 1996. Since then, I have been living as a refugee in Nyarugusu camp, in Tanzania.
Due to civil wars and conflicts which broke out in our country under the influence of rebel groups in the Eastern part, my parents took the decision to flee to Tanzania in 2015 to save my lives.
During conflict, as youth we have witnessed a bunch of challenges. Young boys were killed for no reason. We were abducted and forced to be child-soldiers. Our native villages burnt and many others were left with serious physical disabilities. Girls, on the other hand, were killed, kidnapped, raped and physically assaulted, rending them victims of HIV, trauma, and other vulnerabilities. The worst of all for me is that we have been confined to a refugee camp (once the largest in the world) called Nyarugusu with no exposure to outside world. The memories are enduring indeed! Despite all the challenges faced, but I did not stifle myself because I knew who I am and what I wanted to be in the future. So I pushed myself into my studies even if it was somehow challenging and enjoyed them even though some people discouraged me. Now I am in form three at Lycee Secondary School and doing very well. At school, I like English, French, History and Geography with a focus in Civic. My intention is to become a globally recognized change-maker dedicated to tackling the human right abuses we are facing while rebuilding hope for lives of my fellow refugees who must fend for themselves due to generalized poverty, exploitation, and lack of peace. I have a strong expectation on the RYENET network in which I am an active member in and believe that it can make my dream comes true. It is my hope that young activists like me from all across the world will be able to join hand with the RYENET to help remove these kinds of inequalities and injustices young refugees are facing. I believe together we can change the world. Yes, we can make peace a reality!