Refugee girl writes to UN Secretary General

Saturday October 26 2013

Zawadi Chantal during the recent celebrations of the International Day for the Girl Child in Kamwenge District.

Zawadi Chantal during the recent celebrations of the International Day for the Girl Child in Kamwenge District. PHOTO BY BRIAN MUTEBI. 

By BRIAN MUTEBI

Kamwenge

She is only 13 years old but wants her message delivered to the world’s top diplomat; the UN Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon. Zawadi Chantal, a refugee girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) has written to Mr Ki-moon asking him to pacify Africa’s war-ridden country. “I want you to have sympathy on the people in Congo. Go to Congo and tell them to stop fighting. Have a heart and love for Congo,” she said.

Chantal made her call on Tuesday during celebrations to mark the International Day for the Girl Child.
To commemorate the day in Uganda, the United Nations Population Fund in partnership with UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, organised dialogue with refugee communities in Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement in Kamwenge District under the theme “Let girls be girls: Invest in preventing teenage pregnancy”.

Appeal for peace
After speaking to a section of journalists about the plight of refugee girls in the camp, Chantal felt she had more to tell the world. She exclusively talked to Saturday Monitor, calling upon the UN boss to bring peace to DR Congo.

“Life in the camp is bad yet I don’t want to go back to Congo. Bad things happened to me when I was in Congo like the death of my father,” she said as she broke down in tears. Her father was killed when war broke out between government forces and the M23 rebels. Many cruel acts were committed, including raping girls. As a result, Uganda witnessed an influx of Congolese refugees. Rwamwanja Camp is home to 48,718 refugees.

Dreams
The girl also had a message to President Museveni, asking him to talk to his Congolese counterpart Joseph Kabila and the M23 rebels. These efforts, she hopes, will bring peace in Dr Congo that will enable her and other girls pursue their dreams. “I want to finish my studies and get a job. I want to be a doctor,” she said.

Dear Mr Ban,

I came to know you when we learnt about you in class. I am a refugee girl from Congo now living in Uganda. I am 13 years old. One day war broke out in our area that forced us to leave our village. People were being killed. Everyone ran in different directions. We spent days walking in the bush until when we reached a place they said was the border. I was fortunate to escape the fighting alive. So was my mother, my young sister and two brothers. But I could not see dad. Men of war killed him. I do not know how he was killed. I just couldn’t see dad.

We lost everything. I was in Senior Two at Bukambi Secondary School but because of the war, I did not remember to carry my report cards. This affected my education because when I reached Uganda without my Primary Seven Certificate, I was made to start from Primary Six. I am not alone. Even my friends did not carry theirs, and we have all repeated classes which has made some girls leave school and get babies. I feel bad because I know I can be like them. They get babies because they are orphans and poor. I do not want to be so.

I want to become a doctor and help people. When I came to Uganda, I found people in UN who help others. They help refugees. That’s what I want to do – to help people. I love people like Red Cross and ACORD who do great things. I want to be crossing borders helping people. I request you to take me for training in many different countries so I can learn. I am now in Primary Six at Nkoma Primary School and I know everything they teach but I do not know English very well. I want you to take me to study science. The reason I love science is because I want to study about humans, basically about living things. When you take me to those countries, I will get knowledge.

I want to live a life without worrying. Life in the camp is bad because we cannot have all our needs. We do not have things to use like pads, clothes and shoes. Sometimes I just get pads from my friends who have. My mother cannot take care of me well with my sister in Primary Three and my two young brothers in Primary Two and Primary One.

Life in the camp is bad yet I do not want to go back to Congo. Bad things happened to me when I was in Congo like the death of my father. I want you to have sympathy on the people in Congo. Go to Congo and tell them to stop fighting. Have a heart and love for Congo. I also request President Museveni to talk to president Kabila and the rebels.

If I met the rebels, I would ask them to stop fighting. War leads to destruction of property and the loss of lives. I can visit Congo when peace returns. I want to finish my studies and get a job. I want to be a doctor. I want to be a doctor without borders. I also want other girls to study. I want them to love school because they will study many things that will help them have a good future.

Zawadi Chantal.

Facts about the M23 rebels in DR Congo

l Named after the 23 March 2009 peace accord which they accuse the government of violating
l This deal saw them join the army before they took up arms once more in April 2012
l Also known as the Congolese Revolutionary Army
l Mostly from minority Tutsi ethnic group
l Deny being backed by Rwanda and Uganda
l Believed to have 1,200 to 6,000 fighters
International Criminal Court indicted top commander Bosco “Terminator” Ntaganda in 2006 for allegedly recruiting child soldiers
l The UN and US imposed a travel ban and asset freeze earlier this month on the group’s leader, Sultani Makenga.

bmutebi@ug.nationmedia.com

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