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Somali refugees yearning to connect with old ties

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Farhiya Hussein’s radiant face mask the anguish and torment she has endured for the last two decades when eruption of civil war in Somaliland brutally separated her from next of kin and bosom friends.

The female refugee in her mid 20s is nevertheless unbowed in her quest to retrace her roots, connect with old ties and possibly forge enduring bonds.

A tumultuous life’s journey has only hardened Hussein’s resolve to search for a new beginning, whose emblem is hope, fortitude, grace and compassion.

“My narrative is both emotive and unbelievable. Having separated from my immediate family and childhood friends at the tender age of five when war broke in Somalia cannot be equated to an opera. It is both tragic and painful,” Hussein told Xinhua on Thursday during the World Refugee Day cerebration in Nairobi.

Hussein has vivid memories of what transpired in Somalia two decades ago when gun battles, bombs and missiles reigned supreme and hapless civilians in cities and hamlets either cowed in submission or fled for their safety never to return.

“I remember watching gun toting soldiers pass by our house in Mogadishu and occasionally, they knocked the door demanding the presence of my father. By this time, my father had already disappeared for fear of victimization since he belonged to the enemy camp,” Hussein said.

Her father was a government officer in the overthrown government of Siad Barre and warlords who took over were busy hunting for officials who served in the fallen leader’s regime.

Left at the care of her mother, aunts and the grandmother, Hussein and her two siblings never enjoyed the company of a father figure as most of her male relatives either died or disappeared during the civil war in Somalia.

Towards the late 1990s, Hussein’s mother had enough of watching bloodbath in the city of Mogadishu together with her young offspring and embarked on the perilous journey to a safer haven across the border.

“I cannot for sure remember how we managed to evade snipers or wild animals in the vast desert to enter the Kenyan side of the border. But my mother later told us how she camouflaged identity to pass through checkpoints erected by warlords and often times donkeys came in handy as a means of transport,” Hussein narrated to Xinhua.

Her new life as a refugee in Kenya began when she was an adolescent and together with a swelling number of displaced persons, Dadaab refugee camp became the new abode.

“I enrolled for upper primary school at Dadaab and have acquired the rest of my education in Kenya,” said Hussein.

An accomplished graduate, Hussein currently works at Refugee United, a nonprofit organization that seeks to reunite refugees with their families.

“Every refugee in this world deserves a second chance, and however long it might take, we all yearn for some day when we will enjoy the warm embrace of long-lost kinsmen and friends,” Hussein said.

She revealed that a desire to reconnect with her father who is holed up in Somalia capital lingers often.

“At least my mother and siblings are here in Kenya but it torments me whenever I remember my father. His safety is not even assured but when the moment beckons, I will fly to Mogadishu to look for him,” said Hussein.

She is not alone in the quest to reconnect with the homeland after years of sojourn in the vast jungle to the unknown.

Dozens of young refugees from the Horn of Africa and the great lakes region who spoke to Xinhua during the World Refugee Day shared the same desire to retrace their broken path and forge a new beginning.

“Am considered an alien here despite having the legal papers to guarantee my stay in Kenya as a refugee. When the rebirth process in my country reaches a fruitful end, there is no reason for me to stick around any longer,” said Abdullah Osman, a 27-year-old Somali refugee living in Nairobi.

Osman escaped from Somali three years ago at the height of Al- Shabaab attacks and currently live with the extended family in a Nairobi suburb.

He regretted that many refugees are treated like second class citizens in their host country and are often discriminated in employment and provision of basic services like health and education.

“Finding a stable job has been a nightmare not forgetting the many instances of hostile reception from the civilian population and authorities,” Osman told Xinhua.

Young refugees from the great lakes region yearn for a return to their ancestral land where they were uprooted by ethnic strife.

“There is no place like home, and this reality dawned on me several years ago when I settled in Kenya as a refugee. Yes it is true, my country, Democratic Republic of Congo has issues, but it is not a walk in the park here in Kenya for us refugees,” said Salva Munyona, a Congolese refugee and a mother of two.


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