Rais Neza Boneza
Country Editor for D.R. Congo, Uganda, and Norway
There is nothing more difficult than writing in the troubled areas of EAST AFRICA. Moreover, when you are 23 years old ,a refugee, a victim of war ,have lost relatives ,parents and brothers in political problems, tribal upheavals are greatly enhanced.
Alone surviving in middle of hatred and madness, far from your home; a writer is vulnerable to obstacles never even imagined by those who have the peace and tranquility of a homeland without chaos and war.
Since the inception of war in my country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, I have been shuffled from one neighbouring country to the next, most of which Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda are at loggerheads with my native land.
You can imagine, then, how difficult it is for an artist, a writer, or a journalist to freely and creatively ply his craft.
I am not being nationalistic, but I know what I am talking about, especially when I, myself, have been affected from near or from far by that madness, inhumanity, and cynicism of this African thirst for war in my region: the GREAT LAKES (East Africa).
When a writer has witnessed such cruelties as the burial of a live woman alive, rapes, massacres of babies in hospitals, he is forced by his conscience to reveal these atrocities in writing. By this he shares with the world his memories of brutality that will haunt his life in perpetuity. Therefore, I am compelled to write about all the situations I experience in my society.
As a refugee in a land which is involved in external struggles, I personally know many people who have perished in these struggles. But I cannot always truly write concerning what is going on and certainly I can not always freely write about it for reasons of security. I live in cultural and intellectual embargo, a situation where no one can publish your work, you are used without being paid for your work. Your manuscripts are stolen and another man’s name appears on a published book, the contents of which are clearly your own.
Since the September 11th suicide attacks in the United States, many leaders in the Third World, especially in Africa ,have legitimated their dubious actions and totalitarian tendencies by suppressing their opponents under the guise of anti-terrorist laws. No one can write the real truth, fearing laws that suppress freedom of speech. In my case it is more dangerous because I have that identity “Refugee from a hostile country.” According to the unofficial but real, a refugee is a non-entity in society. He cannot have work, no rights, and most of the time he is not even considered a human being. Every now and then information surfaces about the sudden disappearance, or even assassination of a refugee. The situation is confused; the United Nations High Commission of Refugees (UNHCR) is unable to protect those whose cares they are pledged to uphold. Even minimum security for refugees is not seen. Many refugees have been killed while under the protection of the UNHCR.
Now, imagine my own situation, no job, only writing over and over, waiting and waiting for an opportunity that may never materialise, sometimes without many meals, living the life of a beggar. Surely I am poor and my situation is getting worse by the day. I live under tensions, in a world where people do not care about the problems of others. But I cannot keep quiet when with me and near me there is misery, injustice, violence and daily increase of crime. All these situations affect my very being, my emotions, my reason, and my creativity.
I have to write. I know however, I cannot live by my pen, which is my deepest desire. I do, though, keep on writing and wait patiently for the day when my star will reach its ascendancy.
All that I have shared with you gives me the strength to keep on singing my song in poetic expression. For me, writing brings me to the summit of satisfaction that I reach by my creativity, my words.
The inks of my pen some people fear and try to repress. I have to spread truth, ideas of peace, reconciliation, understanding, tolerance, justice and love among people. In my poverty my only tool is the richness of language expressed in written form.
Sharing experiences and discussing with other writers our work, I take on a renewed vigour, more objectivity in my struggle for peace, more hope which nibs my ultimate victory.
I assure you in my weakness, my pen is powerful. I am in pain, troubled by the uncertainties of my daily life, but I keep up my courage. I will not let hopelessness overcome me.
I want to see the fruit of my works; the Bible said that the tree which is not productive would be thrown into fire. Today, I am near a certain fire (Poverty), but I know, even if my rights as a human being have been sidelined; the solution is not to give up because my greatest mission in life is to continue writing.
It's not that because I write I know all things, but because in writing I can reduce ignorance and promote truth, justice and peace. “Ars Longa; Vita Brevis”, life is brief but art is everlasting.
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