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Omar Sabimana: "We are like prisoners in this camp"

Omar Sabimana, 25, a Rwandan refugee in Burundi, was transferred to Giharo in the southeastern province of Rutana in 2006. He finds camp life stultifying and would like to work. Judith Basutama/IRIN

Omar Sabimana, 25, a Rwandan refugee in Burundi, was transferred to Giharo in the southeastern province of Rutana in 2006. He finds camp life stultifying and would like to work.

"I fled Rwanda in 2005. I first found refuge at Rwisuri in northern Ngozi province, then Songore. We were later forced back into Rwanda, but I kept coming back. They wanted to force me to go to Arusha [in Tanzania, where the tribunal trying suspected ringleaders on the 1994 Rwandan genocide is based] to testify against Elie Ndayambaje [a genocide suspect].

"I refused to go there; I feel I have nothing to say. I was only 12 when the genocide took place. How can I remember what he did or did not do? I only remember that my parents were killed and I was left alone and Ndayambaje took me to his home.

"Like other orphans, Ibuka, [an organisation of survivors of the genocide, which seeks justice and social and economic wellbeing of those affected], built me a house, but I refused to testify on an issue I know nothing about.

"I have lived in this camp since last year, but I feel like I have lived here for ages. Many of us here have nothing to do. Spending the whole day idle at my age is unbearable.

"We are like prisoners. We have to ask for permission to go out, and we have to be back by 6pm. We have refugee cards but they do not allow us to move freely. If I were allowed to move, I could look for a job among Burundian families.

"Those responsible for the camp helped some refugees find jobs as assistant builders. They can easily get 20,000 francs or even 30,000 per month (US$20), but others do not have jobs. The only job I can get is as farm labourer, but the pay is small.

"If we were allowed out, we could go to other provinces and work to improve our lives.

"I only receive 10kg of flour, 5kg of beans, a litre of oil and three bars of soap every month, but sometimes the rations come late.

"I can't live like this all my life. As I don’t plan to go back to Rwanda, I feel they have to let us out to look for jobs wherever possible."

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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