Isaac’s Story, Uganda

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Photo by L. Beck/2014.

24 year old Isaac Sempija is a Rwandan refugee who fled to Uganda after the 1994 genocide where both his parents were killed. He was just 5 years old when he and his brother (1 year old at the time) were forced to flee for their lives, first crossing through Tanzania and eventually ending up in Uganda’s Oruchinga refugee settlement in the south west of the country.

“I became a refugee after we experienced  war in our country – some of us lost our parents and became orphans. I don’t have parents- I’m an orphan so if I go back there is nobody to look after me. Here I have the UN looking after me so that is why I can’t return there [to Rwanda]. I’m living here with a guardian who helps us survive. As orphans we face challenges because there is a lack of money, so survival is not always easy. The biggest challenge is receiving an education. I tried to complete my O levels but I didn’t get enough money and now I don’t know how I can look after my younger brother who is now 19 years.

In my guardian’s family there are 8 people. I met them here in Uganda, but I found out  they are relatives of my parents – the guardian was my dad’s brother, so my uncle. I was happy when I met my uncle. At first I feared he might treat me badly, but I found he was just trying to look after us. When I first fled in 1994 I knew where to go by following the others. I was with my brother, my parents left him very young, he does not remember them. When I came to Uganda I tried to wait to see whether my parents would come, then I received news telling me that my parents died during the war; then I didn’t feel good. From the journey I remember we met some soldiers who were killing people and then we tried to cross the river Kagera where we saw some of the dead bodies. We feared that in the country we were settling in we might face these problems, but here we have been safe.”


1 family torn apart by war is too many

Learn more about our work with refugees at UNHCR.org