Haunted by the Rwanda Genocide: Girl Abandoned in Uganda
Uwera(middle) with her new friends at Candlelight Foundation.

Haunted by the Rwanda Genocide: Girl Abandoned in Uganda

Uwera searches for home after being abandoned at Entebbe airport.

By Francis Jjingo
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First published: December 2, 2005

Orphaned at the age of 5, she lives with adopted parents, one of whom was this year killed by the same people who killed her parents. Now living as a 'refugee' after being abandoned in Uganda, Grace Anny Uwera cannot help regretting why she was born.

Uwera, who comes from the Rwandan District of Gisenyi, lost both her parents and all relatives during the 1994 Rwanda Genocide-a common story for many Rwandan children.

Uwimana Chautae, who adopted her in 1998, abandoned her recently at Entebbe Airport. Given only Ushs 3,000 (US$1.5) to bring her to Kampala, Uwera was 'condemned' to the streets of Kampala where she had to find a new home, food, relatives and all.

"She told me that when she reaches London, she will call the refugee camp and direct them to send me to London. Up to now, I don't know where the refugee camp is," Uwera says.

Now aged 16, Uwera was recently 'saved' by a Muzungu lady, only identified as Sarah, who took her to Candlelight Foundation, an NGO based in Mengo, Kampala. The NGO collects disadvantaged girls from the streets. Even with some care here, hope is still distant for Uwera.

After many days of negotiation, Uwera has finally agreed to talk to us. Uncontrollable tears roll down her chubby cheeks as she narrates her ordeal. Even when she is beckoned by her new friends at Candlelight to "be strong", tears continue to come as she narrates the unforgettable night the soldiers came to their house and killed her family members using machetes during Rwanda's historic turmoil in 1994.

Uwera dips a candle at Candlelight Foundation.

"The Hutu soldiers butchered my father and mother, together with two of my elder sisters. I was left alone," Uwera says with much effort.

The 11 years that have passed have not made Uwera forget anything of the gruesome murders. "My father was a Senegalese while my mother was a Rwandese (Tutsi). My father became a Rwandese national after marrying my mother. I still remember them and miss their love and attention. My father's name was Niwemugabo Ally Djuma and my mother's, Bankundiye Amina," she recalls.

That is when she looses her temporary smile. She says the memory of her parents makes her envious of children who have 'the luxury' of their parent's love and care. Even when they were still alive, Uwera never had the opportunity to experience their full attention.

"My father was a driver of a petroleum truck that used to transport fuel from Mombasa to Rwanda and was rarely at home. My mother was a nurse and she operated her own clinic," she reminisces. That was years ago, and she has accepted her fate.

Uwera says that knowing about her Senegalese origin and relatives is something that would make her life different; since it is the only way she could get the love of a relative.

"My family perished before my father could take me to Senegal. He used to say that my grandparents are in Senegal and I always dreamt of going there," she says.

Uwera takes Uwimana, with whom she had lived for the last five years, to be a good parent, although she abandoned her. She believes this happened because Uwimana failed to get necessary documents for Uwera and her two kids to travel to Britain.

Uwera says that Uwimana was escaping from Rwanda because she realised that her life was in danger after opposition politicians killed her husband in May this year.

"It was being said they were looking for Uwimana to kill her too. I would go back to Rwanda, but it's impossible because every body knew that I was a daughter to those people. They can kill me as well," says the teenager. Our attempts to confirm this allegation from Rwandan Authorities were fruitless.

Uwera who says she left Rwanda while in secondary school wants to go back to school and sees school "as the only way for my future."

Rosette Nabuuma, the Manager Candlelight Foundation says the Organisation is considering taking Uwera back to school like the rest of the girls they get from the streets. "But we need continuous assistance in order to appropriately cater for these disadvantaged girls and make their lives better," Nabuuma says.

Uwera, like the rest of the girls, has been taught how to make candles so that she can earn some little living. Not much hope for Uwera though! Because for every day that passes, her hopes of going back to school and finding her relatives in Senegal-the two things she loves most in the world, become more and more slim.

By Francis Jjingo
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First published: December 2, 2005
Francis Jjingo works for Ultimate Media Consult.

To learn more about Ultimate Media Consult go to www.ultimatemediaconsult.com.