In the life of a refugee in Kenya
It is a dusty and sunny day in Nairobi’s Umoja Three estate. Joshua Muramira and his three colleagues arrive on time at our meeting point outside a shop in the Bee Shopping Centre. But his colleagues excuse themselves to go attend to other refugees in the area.
During the interview, a soft spoken Muramira keeps his finger on a fresh wound on the left side of his head. “This wound is a result of a recent attack outside the house we live in with my colleagues. You see, once you do not have a national identity card, people will always suspect you,” says Muramira, narrating the numerous challenges he has gone through since he came into Kenya in November 2014.
To him, lack of an identity card is his biggest challenge and once he shows his waiting card for an Alien ID, many potential employers are hesitant to offer him an opportunity. In many occasions, the 26-year-old has been forced to work as a night guard, garbage taker or a barber. And such opportunities only come from people who are already used to him in the area. But the pay is not so good. “At times I can work in a barber shop for a whole day but leave with only Sh40 as commission,” says Muranira.
Although he misses the freedom in his previous life where he was a herder back in their Minembwe village of the present South Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Muramira says he can never go back to the country. “I am yet to receive my alien ID here as a refugee, something that really restricts my movement and work. But I would never compare my current situation to the life back in Congo,” he says.
The first born of eight children remembers an evening in August 2014 when war intensified in his home area in Minembwe. The area comprises mainly of pastoralists and this is what he was doing fulltime. “After my studies in E.P Kipombo Secondary school, I joined my cousins and other young men in herding cattle. We would sleep outside the homestead while we watched over the livestock. On the other hand, women and girls would sleep indoors,” he remembers.
But this routine would drastically change after the attackers in the warring country invaded their home in August 2014. “We took off and had no opportunity to save the rest of our family,” says a remorseful Muramira. Todate he doesn’t know the whereabouts of his family.
Having watched his colleagues flee DRC to other countries in search of refugees, Muramira and his colleagues made their way through the forest until they got to Uganda. “We didn’t know where we were going. We were just escaping war.”
He later got access to Kenya through his colleagues in Uganda who were students. “I arrived in Kenya on November 5, 2014 via a Busia bus. On arrival, my colleagues directed to the Department of Refugee Affairs where I got a UNHCR Mandate, a document showing that I was a refugee in Kenya.” Later on April 11, 2016, Muramira got his Alien ID waiting card from the same department. “This waiting card is what I have been using as my identity. But life is difficult without a proper ID,” he says, showing the tattered document. Today, he lives with two other refugees in a single room in Nairobi.
So far, 621,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been displaced as a result of conflict. In 2015 alone, 3.5 million people in Africa were displaced by violence, conflict and disasters.