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Stereotypes Hurt

Time 0:05:19

(Translated from French)

After working very hard for days and nights on my research project, I stood up in class and started doing my presentation. My English wasn’t fluent like everyone else, and my class mate started laughing at me. I felt so disrespected, despised and stupid. I didn’t know why they were judging me. They didn’t even know me.

It was the end of 2003 when I found myself at 17 years old in a Refugee camp alone, I wondered how will I survive in this camp because I was not with my family. One day I approached a man who sold tea and coffee at the camp hospital and I asked him if he would have anything that I can do so I can get money to help myself. He offered me a job.

Three months later, I was in the restaurant working when the commandant and two other men came to take me away. I asked them in Swahili (nimefanyanini?) what have I done. no one answered, I asked again (munanibebawapi) where are you taking me? One of them answered, we were told you are a soldier. They thought all people from south kivu in the areas of Mulenge in Congo were criminals. I said no but they didn’t believe me. I was taken like a chicken going to be slaughtered, shaking and crying.

I was put in prison. I drank only bean soup and sometimes kaunga meal. I didn’t know if I was gonna be released out because there was no trial. I had no hope because I couldn’t speak the language enough for the people to hear my voice. The most difficult time was thinking of how my life was when I was in my home country before war started.

One day, UNHCR came and advocated for me. They got me out of prison. I had no hope and I was surprised to be free.

After four years of living in the camp, I moved to Kampala. I was working at the petrol station and as I was telling my story to my co-worker. He told me about the Refugee Law project. I went there right away. They interviewed me many times. They questioned the commandant and he denied my experience, but when they met my boss from the restaurant, he told them everything. A few months later I was called for an interview with the Canadian immigration agent.

After class, I went to my classmates and told them that not speaking English does not make me a stupid man. This is the 8th language I am learning. They were so surprised. Some apologized, some didn’t. The whole day I was angry. I kept questioning myself, why do people judge others like that? How do we get through that judgement?

From that time to now, each day, I keep pushing forward and I keep standing on the truth of who I am.

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