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“A shameful wound of our time”.
Growing up surrounded by a fence, caged like an animal, stripped of dignity, with no freedom, no home of your own, overcrowded, traumatized, having lost your beloved, isolated from other people, yet still having courage to face each day with hope and determination for a better tomorrow. This is what it means to be a refugee and one of the costs of war. As defined by the 1951 Convention, a refugee “is any person who, owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”
There are many refugees across the world but specifically, I am talking about refugees from that blessed and yet seemingly forsaken continent, Africa. Although natural disasters have contributed to refugee problems, most refugees are the product of man- made disasters. There are are about seventeen million refugees, of which 90 percent and above are found in Africa. This is more than a statistic, these are our brothers and sisters who are suffering due to our unjust actions. 80 percent of the world’s refugees are women and children who are the most vulnerable to their unstable conditions.
From refugees of Mali in Niger to internally displaced persons in DRC, in Liberia, in Sudan and you name it, refugees share the same story: A story of rape, injustice, suppression, oppression, repression, compulsion and uncertainty of the future. Most refugees or internally displaced person in Africa are denied freedom. They live in dehumanizing conditions, with few basic needs supplied. They are mostly housed in camps where sometimes women have to sell their bodies in order to obtain food. Most of the young people do not have education, while the world sings that education is the key to liberty. As human beings we have failed the refugees everywhere in Africa. We have allowed these refugees to be defined by poverty, high illiteracy, high morbidity rates, HIV pandemic, etc. We have failed to recognize that Africa can never be developed nor can it move forward when these large groups of people are left out of participation. We have failed to acknowledge that, if we are to build a peaceful Africa, we have to replace guns and the helpless life of refugees with education. In the midst of all this disaster, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of humanitarian organizations, and I leave it to the reader to debate about their successes and failures.
The stories of refugees are told, not to arouse pity but to call World leaders especially Africans to adopt a non-violent and harmonious way of life. Africa can be developed if the so-called leaders are tasked to accountability by their own people and by those from outside who are providing aid in the name of international development.
We want a blood-free Africa. We want human rights to be respected, we want the word “refugee” to disappear from the continent of Africa and the entire universe. We want war and crimes against humanity to stop. We want a generation of hope and a bright future. It’s everybody’s responsibility to try and create a peaceful environment, since every region today has refugees.
“You understand something when you go through it.”
Written by Sandrine in observance of the World Refugee Day on June 20, 2013
PS: Sandrine M. De Vincent is from Rwanda. She is contesting the crown of Miss Africanada 2013. Her platform is “to support girls’ education especially for the refugee women and girls in Africa”. Aged 23, Sandrine is a third year student in International Relations and Political Sciences at University of Toronto. To vote for Sandrine, go to the link http://www.tapmagazine.ca/2013/08/vote-sandrine-for-miss-africanada-2013.html and click on one of the social media at the bottom of the page. Your support is a tool to enable this beautiful talented young lady to advocate for Refugees.
Don’t forget to vote!!