Faustine

Faustine  

Rwanda (Burundian)

When I got into Tanzania, life was really hard. I went to a refugee camp and we were together with Burundians and Rwandese in that refugee camp. Then there came a time when the government decided to separate Rwandese and Burundians. They wanted to take all the Rwandese back to Rwanda. One day they sent the tanks and soldiers into the refugee camp to get all the Rwandese out of the camp. So the only thing you had to do was show your ID. If you were from Burundi, you were lucky. If you didn't have an ID and you were from Burundi, they were just going to take you back to Rwanda. When they came into the refugee camp and they were asking for that identification, sometimes they would go inside your small house, and if they found nice pants or nice shoes, they would take them. Finally, I started to think that life in Rwanda was better than in Tanzania. That was in 1995 until 1996. Once all of the Rwandese were back in Rwanda, they brought all of us Burundians to another refugee camp. The other refugee camp was filled with Burundian refugees that had come directly from Burundi, not from Rwanda.

When we got to that camp, we were speaking different versions of Kirundi—the Burundian language. For us, we were raised in Rwanda, so our Kirundi was more like Kinyarwanda—the language in Rwanda. The rest of them were speaking a really strong Kirundi because they had just arrived a few years ago in 1993. They were really true Burundians. So things got really tough for us living there because that group of Burundians considered us to be from Rwanda. They said, "You are not Burundian; you are just Rwandese because you don't speak Kirundi." Those people denied that we were Burundian, even when we told them where we were from—the town, the street. They said, "No, you are not Burundian, so we don't want you going back in Burundi. You have to go back into Rwanda where you are from." It was confusing because people started to argue about the land they owned in Burundi, or the land their parents owned, the houses, etc. They tried to tell us that we didn't have a right to these things—but anyway, both groups were in the refugee camp and nobody could even go back to Burundi. We were arguing about who owned the things in Burundi, but we were all in a refugee camp and nobody was about to go back into Burundi.

So when we first got into that refugee camp, we found out that the other group of Burundians were involved in the fighting in Burundi—and the politics. For us, since we were not welcomed into that refugee camp, we decided just to get involved in businesses and that stuff—having a life. We kept away from those political things and owned businesses and took care of ourselves instead of getting involved in the fighting.

When those guys went back into Burundi and got the power, they started sending letters back to us saying we didn't help them get the power and that we were only seeking money in our businesses. They told us if we chose to go back into Burundi, we better know where we are going. They didn't really want us back, so they told us to just stay where we were in Tanzania or go back into Rwanda. We were really upset because we couldn't go back into Burundi, which was our country, and we couldn't go back into Rwanda because we were just refugees there.