South Africa

South Africa: Aunesi Saidi Omari - "In South Africa I'm not safe, and in my country I'm not safe"

CAPE TOWN, 21 November 2008 (IRIN) - Aunesi Saidi Omari lives in the Philippi township of Cape Town, South Africa. A refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, she was a victim of the xenophobic violence that hit South Africa in May 2008. Afraid of going back to the local community, she is now unsure of her future.

"I'm a Tutsi from Congo ... my brother was in South Africa. He said, 'Come to South Africa. In all those countries neighbouring Congo, those people will come to kill you, but South Africa is very far from Congo, and it's a democracy.'

"So we came to South Africa to join him. But in 2006 South Africans shot him during the security guard strikes. [Many Congolese work as security guards and were seen as breaking the strike]

"In July 2005, South Africans raped my daughter. She was 10 years old and going to school when three men took her in the road, and forced her into a bungalow. The men here want foreign girlfriends, but the foreign girls don't want local men.

"To me, they raped my daughter because she's a foreigner. I made a police report, but until now, no one has helped me. That case is still there [pending] - they [police] said they'd phone me, but until today they didn't phone me.

"When the xenophobia started in Jo'burg, my neighbours started calling to my children, 'Alexandria, Alexandria' [the Johannesburg township where the violence started], like it's their name now.

"These children are innocent; they don't know what happened there. I don't like that name. Soon after, people beat me. One came with a knife to kill me, but another one said, 'Leave her, she has children. We will beat her, and she will go back to her country.'

"I ran to the police station, but they told me, 'I'm sorry, but this is no time for makwerikweri [derogatory term for foreigners], you're all supposed to go back to your country.' So then I ran to a church, and eventually to the camp in Soetwater [a camp for displaced people outside Cape Town].

"After one month, the government was talking about integration, saying everything was fine, xenophobia is finished. I told my husband, 'The children stay here and don't go to school, so we should go back. Maybe we'll be safe now.'

"When I got to my place, all my neighbours said, 'Oh, you've come back? I thought maybe you'd returned to your country.' I went back to the camp that night.

The next day, I came back with my family. That night people came with guns, and were talking outside. 'You don't want to listen. Today is your last day. We're going to kill you, because you don't want to listen. I told you before you're supposed to leave this place, so now I'm going to kill you because you don't want to understand.'

"They shot two bullets through my window. Me and my children were crying inside ... Now, they talk about closing the [Soetwater] camp this week. I don't know which place I'm going to go with my five children.

"I'm looking everywhere where I can be safe. In South Africa I'm not safe, and in my country I'm not safe. I really don't know what I'm going to do."