Rosebell's Blog

"You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore."-Cesar Chavez


October 2012

Escaping military service and kidnap, one Eritrean woman’s Ordeal

By Reem Abbas

When Fatima (not real name) escaped Sawa, a military camp in Eritrea, she had already been there for two long years doing the compulsory military training that is supposed to end after 18 months.

For many young Eritreans, the service never quit ends. The months become years and many youth, men and women, find themselves stuck in the military service for over a decade.

Fatima and five of her friends escaped one night from the camp without any sense of direction. They walked for three days until they reached the border with Sudan, digging up mud to drink water and having nothing to eat.

There, they found themselves face-to-face with Sudanese soldiers who detained them for two days. The rest escaped except Fatima. She was left behind and remains in Sudan, ten years later.

Fatima was then taken to a military outpost and not long after, late at night, she was rapped by one of the soldiers.

I met Fatima through a friend who found out about her story through another Eritrean in Khartoum. I didn’t even hesitate for a minute when I read my friend’s email and agreed to meet her the next day. My friend thought her story was worth telling, I felt humbled by the opportunity to tell her story.

I opened the door to find an Eritrean man David (not real name) who is probably in his 50s. And inside there was Fatima. Although I’ve read a guideline to interviewing victims of violence online at the Dart Center’s website, all of a sudden, I didn’t feel like I could do this. How could I remain composed through all of this? This was a huge challenge, but I felt a responsibility to tell this story and look for other women who have suffered a similar ordeal.

First, I chatted with Fatima and David about Sudan. In fact we talked about if they liked tea sugary or not too sweet. The conversation flowed smoothly and Fatima began telling her story and answering my questions without hesitation.

As Fatima spoke, her thin body drowned in her Sudanese toub (a cloth worn by Sudanese women) and her face testified to years of suffering endured. At 24, Fatima entered Sudan in 2000 and until now, in her 34th year she’s still stuck in Sudan.

At the military outpost, after her brutal rape, the soldier took Fatima to live with him in his tent.

“I later became very sick and I found out that I was pregnant,” said Fatima. She said she tried to escape at least three times, but was always caught and returned to the soldier, a man she had two children with.

After she had her first child, she says she halfheartedly accepted her reality and realized it is very difficult to escape. She stayed there, raising her two children with a man who verbally abused her and sometimes, beat her.

Their house was a tent inside the military camp with no access to electricity or the basics. She cooked with coal or wood and never left the tent.

“He worried that I would get to know people if I left the tent, so I never left, I never went to the market, I know I was in Kassala, but never saw it,” said Fatima.

For 10 years, Fatima was forcibly living with a Sudanese soldier. As time passed by, she learned Arabic, a language she did not speak a word of when she came from her homeland.

“When I was alone, I cried until my eyesight was almost gone,” said Fatima who was holding her glasses.

Continue reading “Escaping military service and kidnap, one Eritrean woman’s Ordeal”

#PowerofWe Uganda: What will it take to conserve the environment?

Ten days ago I took a trip to Kalangala, one of the Ssese islands on Lake Victoria. The last time I had visited the beautiful island was four years ago. The island is three hours ferry ride from Entebbe. On board we had three vehicles from the ministry of tourism and I was curious what function was going take place just a few days before our 50-year independence anniversary.

We later found out that the next day the minister of tourism was launching a ‘tourism master plan for Ssese Islands’, which am told, do not receive that many tourists these days. More than the logistical issues like access to these islands, what left me speechless was the destruction of the rain forests in Kalangala Island.

As you approach the islands you cannot miss the bare hills that were once covered with green dense forests.

Screen shot from BIDCO Uganda Ltd.

The destruction of these forests and biodiversity has been fully backed by government as top regime officials make money off Palm Oil production.

Continue reading “#PowerofWe Uganda: What will it take to conserve the environment?”

Uganda’s independence Jubilee and why all can’t jubilate.

Today Ugandans marked 50 years since colonial rule ended. On October 9th 1962, Uganda joined a list of African countries that were set to govern their own affairs after decades, in some cases centuries, of colonization.

I left Kampala a few hours to the Independence Day but even if I were home, I wouldn’t have joined the national event at Kololo to celebrate. I think we have a lot more to reflect on than an all out celebration.

It is important that every person should take part in deciding the affairs of their family, community and nation. So the end of colonialism didn’t mean the end of the quest for Ugandans to have a say on how they want to be governed.

Uganda like many African countries was a nation formed by colonialists through breaking nations (others call them kingdoms) and forcing them under one boundary as they saw fit- for their administrative and colonial interests. So to convince these nations to come to recognize and really be part of the new nation Uganda was a tall order!

Continue reading “Uganda’s independence Jubilee and why all can’t jubilate.”

For Uganda at 50

The last couple of weeks I have been working on a few documentaries one on trade and another on women empowerment. All these are around our 50 years independence anniversary due October 9.  I went to  the eastern district of Butaleja. It was my first time there and also first time to see rice in the field! These were the sites in this beautiful land.

Hajji Ahmed Naleba is a rice farmer in Butaleja Eastern Uganda. Emerging of South Sudan as top market for Ugandan produce has seen farmers like Naleba increase their profit.

Continue reading “For Uganda at 50”

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