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!