20 June 2013


Image Credit: everythingiseverything.com

Many people around the world might not know what it feels like to live in a tent. With the raindrops beating you, the sun melting your skin, seeing little hungry kids forming queues, fighting for little supplies on their little plates, No portable drinking water. . .The horror just goes on and on.

But my guest on the STROLL today is a breathing encyclopedia of the refugee experience. He has lived for over twenty years in the world's largest refugee camp in Dadaab, and has seen it all so he can easily relate with the struggle of people displaced from their homes seeking refuge in foreign lands.

I was able to catch up with him to share his story with me. We talked about how he transformed from a little refugee boy doing the dishes in a restaurant to an award winning film maker telling stories for people who don't have a voice. Here's Mr Liban's story, get inspired;

 Ebenezar: Thank you so much for your time Liban, I'm really honoured. For people that don't know, What is life like in a refugee camp?

Liban: Life in a refugee camp is horrible and difficult; it is a place where people should stay temporarily for the purpose of living until they can be safely returned to their countries. It is not meant to become permanent homes or settlements. However refugees often have to live for much longer than expected.
I was part of the early arrival refugees who came to the camp in 1991 and stayed for more than two decades, we came to Kenya through the liboi border with a UNHCR lorry, the sun was scorching and dust falling like ice, no electricity and it was dark at night and fearful of bandits that rape women and girls.
Currently the life is getting better because resettlement opportunities has helped refugees to support each other by sending money to their neighbors back in Dadaab and relatives, the other opportunity is free education for the young kids while the grown ups got jobs to support their families. Although the reward from these jobs are like incentives, they are not well paying jobs.
The challenges at present is lack of integration between refugees and host community, restriction of movement, lack of higher education opportunities, low job opportunities and many more that in the recent past contributed to insecurity in the camps. The list is endless.

EbenezarPhew, that is really hard. . . So when did you start living in a refugee camp?? And how did you cope after the death of your dad?

Liban: I started living in the refugee camp in 1991 when I was only four years old. The death of my dad was painful and unforgettable, the death of my dad made my family tear apart, I am in Dadaab and the rest of my family is in the USA. I was the eldest son of my family and this made me feel ashamed for not supporting the family when my dad was not there anymore.
I escaped for Nairobi without the knowledge of my mother and sneaked into a bus enroute Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, the journey was long and troublesome. it was like a mouse and cat game, I had to hide myself out from the police and the conductor of the bus I was traveling with. Anyway I made it to Nairobi but I didn’t know where to start I was bewildered by the tall buildings in the city and I spent the night in the cold shivering and hungry.
In the morning my eyes could not catch the usual sun, people were rushing to work. But as I knew how to read, that helped me to look for a hotel and I saw a hotel and went in to ask the cashier for a job.
The answer was positive, "OK have a sit, get breakfast".
The owner of the hotel came in and I was introduced to him by the cashier, he took me to the kitchen to clean all the utensils for no payment but food!!!  "if you dare ask for payment, I will take you to cell", he said. "because you’re a refugee and you're here illegally". my heart started beating and I was thinking about my mother, what they will feel? was I a curse to my family after the death of my father?
After staying there for a year, a good Samaritan helped me out of the hotel by sneaking me  out, and brought me back to Dadaab to join my family. But they were already in process to resettlement to USA and left for America after staying with me for four months.
The family left, and are in caring hands now. The struggle for survival of the fittest in Dadaab started for me. It was a long journey I must say. But I thought about it and how best I could turn that difficulty into a better successful life.
Image Credit: dadaabstories.org
The journey started when I passed through a community notice board and found the advertisement for youths who are interested in learning film making in Dadaab from Film Aid  International. I applied and joined the program named Film Aids Participatory Video Project (PVP).
After getting training I got awards as best camera award for the (GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY) a film on refugees that got settlement in a third country and came back to the camp to share their stories about America and the opportunities they got. Best Director for the film (BLACK SMITH) a film about the black-smith in our community, because our community mistreats and classifies blacksmiths as a bad omen, and they are not allowed to interact with community in terms of marriage as well as decision making in gatherings. So the film told their story as a means of advocacy to showcase the good service they are making for the community which is important and they need to be appreciated rather than discriminated.
 Best director for the film (WELCOME TO DADAAB) this film was about when the refugee influxes took place in dadaab in 2011 when famine struck Somalia. Telling the refugees stories what they went through during their journey, their life in dadaab , the services they got in dadaab and the impact of the famine on their lives. I got the award in Nairobi for the film festival 2011 with film aid and Sundance film festival. I was also awarded best OUT STANDING REFUGEE FILM MAKER both in DADAAB AND KAKUMA.

Ebenezar: Whoa!!! This is really inspiring. . .I know about your work; ''Voices from Dadaab''. Do you have any other projects you're working on?

Liban: Currently I am involved in Dadaabstories.org . Dadaab Stories is a place for refugees to share their stories with the world. It's an initiative of  Film Aid, a humanitarian media organization that has been making, teaching and screening films in Dadaab since 2006.
Dadaab Stories is nonlinear and multimedia. Stories are told through video, photography, poetry, music and journalism. Everyone in the Dadaab refugee camp has a story to tell, and this is the place to share these stories. Just like Dadaab itself, Dadaab Stories is always changing, and new content is added regularly.
I am part of the Crew and my role is as a Field Producer. I do coordinated production and community outreach, identifying stories, arranging production schedules and managing the involvement of subjects and participants. In addition, apart from film making I also do photography for the Refugee Newspaper.
Image Credit: filmaid.org
Ebenezar: Okay, this is really great. . .If you notice, the number of refugees keep increasing around the world; In fact the Syrian conflict has shown to the world how wars can destroy lives and displace people. please do you have any advice for communities/nations that are on the verge of war?

Liban: Please, we the refugees better understand how much it took us to be a refugee with the vast experience of what we have been living in. In a confiscated camp with restriction, hunger, etc. We appeal to the world leaders and  leaders of community and nations. . .please with your support we can stop conflict and save lives. People need to take responsibility for their peace. Say NO to violence!!!

Ebenezar: Do you think the UN is doing enough to meet the needs of refugees around the world?? If no, where should they put more effort? (whispers; you're speaking as a voice for all refugees around the world right now)

Liban: The UN is not doing enough. They have to put more effort on the countries that hosts the refugees to allow them interact and be part of the community they are in because, identity brings a lot of problems. imagine staying in a country for twenty years and you cannot leave the camp? My brother it is trouble.
Job creation for the refugees is another one. Do not allow them to stay idle and wait for what to eat. That is invariably injecting in them the dependence syndrome. Teach the fisherman how to fish, don’t give him fish. Review the Refugee Act.

Ebenezar: Do you plan to leave the Refugee Camp in Dadaab anytime soon?

Liban: Yes, I am planning to join my family in USA but all that lies with the process at the USA embassy. Insecurity in Dadaab had contributed to the delay of my case.I have hope and patience that my dream of re-uniting with my family and starting a new life will come true.

Ebenezar: Thank you so much for sharing your story with me Mr Liban. I wish you goodluck with the VISA, and success in your film making. God bless you.

Liban: Thank you too for listening Brother.
For more from Mr. Liban visit www.dadaabstories.org. Or find him on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/liban.rashid

Unresolved Ethnic/National conflicts are really contributing to the increasing number of refugees around the world.
I wish Mr. Assad can hear me right now. . .Please look for a way to resolve the problem in your country sir. Shelling your citizens isn't the solution. The latest figures produced by the UN showed that the number of displaced Syrians is well over 1 million and the death toll is also increasing exponentially.
Leaders around the world, invest more money in conflict resolution than in enriching your arsenal. . ."an eye for an eye, will make us blind."

Till my next Stroll, Jesus Loves You

By; Ebenezar Wikina (@poeticjazz)
All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

  1. Goodness! I do not think our world has wielded much of itself. By the moment, this monstrosity certainly is in defiance of time, place and pundits.

    But Liban's story dares. This is something good, so touching. Thanks for that stroll, Oga Wikina.