Uganda: Surviving in the city
15 April 2009

A JRS social worker registers newly arrived refugees in Nairobi, Kenya. In 2008, JRS saw increased demand for emergency relief from urban asylum seekers and refugees. (Angelika Mendes/JRS)
They broke into our house, killed the guard and looted our property.
Kampala, 15 April 2009 – My story is like that of many women who married across the thins and precarious ethnic divide in Rwanda and who became victims of both sides. I am a Tutsi; my husband belonged to the Hutu tribe. We lived in Butare province with our seven children. 

My husband was arrested, falsely accused of collaboration with Hutus who committed the atrocities in 1994. He disappeared and gunmen were sent to kill the rest of the family.

They broke into our house, killed the guard and looted our property. I was raped and imprisoned for five days. With the help of an army officer I was released and firmly advised to leave the country. 

I fled to Uganda with my children in early 2008 and applied for refugee status in Kampala. It was difficult to find my way in this big city. Asylum seekers receive extremely limited assistance in Kampala are encouraged to wait for decisions on their status in the refugee settlements across the country.  

Waiting for refugee status

I had no choice but to wait in Kampala for the decision on my application and I received no help from anyone until I heard of JRS. When I approached them for help, JRS paid my rent for two months and gave me food and medication for my children. 

When my application for asylum was rejected, JRS advocated on my behalf, and eventually I was recognised as a refugee. JRS then referred me to an organisation called Good Samaritan Friends, who granted me a small loan with which I was able to start a small business selling women’s clothes. 

With the money I earn I can now sustain myself and the children in Kampala and I am glad I do not have to go begging.

I consider myself blessed. I have made new friends, I speak the local language reasonably well and I am trying to learn English. Some Muslim friends contribute to the school fees of two of my children. It is my dream to send all my children to school. I am proud that I have managed to cater for their needs so far because it is not easy being a single mother. I hope that I can continue to do so until they can look after themselves.