Bahekeye is a calm and soft-spoken gentleman who lives together with his wife Perose at Mtendeli refugee camp. They have spent one year in Mtendeli (since April 2016). He was moved from Nyarugusu where he spent another year. Back in Burundi, Bahekeye was living in Nyanzalake, Bukeyi Village of Makamba Province. They have two children, aged 17 and 18 years old. 

Perose explained that life in Burundi was very difficult. “My husband spent many years in the bush hiding from militias and spooky agents who were trailing him every day,” she said.
What are your most immediate needs? “We need peace and harmony around us. However, we cannot go back to Burundi, but we do not have land to farm in Tanzania. Therefore, it is a catch-22 situation,” says Bahekeye.

He fled Burundi due to lack of peace. “We had been refugees before, living in the old Mutabira refugee camp. But when we went back to our homeland, we found that our land had been repossessed. There was alos lots of conflict around land ownership. But the main reason for the unrest was political instability surrounding the presidential situation,” he says.
Their first born son Buchumi who used to take care ofthem became a target of killer militiamen who accused him of supporting the opposition. Buchumi had to abandon them and run away. The old couple remained without help.

They walked at 4am for a period of three hours. This timing was necessary to avoid being detected by roving militiamen. There were 11 people on the road. At some point the groups split into two. Unfortunately, one of the groups that was led by Buchumi was stopped by security agencies and ordered to turn back. 

Together with his wife and five children, Buchumi had no option but to return to Burundi where his life was in danger. “From Kagunga,, we were taken by boat up to Kigoma town. From Kigoma, a bus took us to Nyarugusu, we traveled six hours from Kagunga to Nyarugusu,” says Bahekeye.

‘We have spent many years of our lives running from deadly situations. It is very tiresome. All our children were born in refugee camps. We wish that we could find a peaceful place and spend the rest of our lives in tranquility,” he says.

How did they meet? 

“Perose was a young beautiful girl in our village. I was a young ambitious man. I visited her home several times and noticed her. Now she is old but had you seen her at age 17, you would be very much captivated by her looks,” says a Bahekeye as he remembers the old days.

Photo: NRC/Ingrid Prestetun
Read caption "Perose was a young beautiful girl in our village. I was a young ambitious man," says Bahekeye, remembering the old days. "I visited her home several times and noticed her. Now she is old, but had you seen her at 17, you would be very much captivated by her looks." Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

Till death do us part

Nashon Todo|Published 19. Dec 2017
"We have spent many years of our lives fleeing danger. It is very tiresome. All our children were born in refugee camps," says Bahekeye.

Bahekeye fled conflict in Burundi. At the age of 63, all he wishes for is to find a place where, together with his family, they can spend the rest of their days in peace.

"We were refugees before in Tanzania, living in the old Mtabila refugee camp in 1993," Bahekeye recounts. When they went back to their homeland in 1995, their land had been repossessed. "There was conflict linked to land ownership. But the main reason for the unrest was political instability surrounding the presidential situation."

A need for 36,000 shelters

A calm and soft-spoken man, Bahekeye now lives together with his wife Perose, 61, at Mtendeli refugee camp in Tanzania, where they have been since April 2016. Three years have passed since they fled Burundi.

Many years living together has built respect, trust and harmony in their companionship. Perose takes care of the household chores while Bahekeye ensures that aid agencies are informed about their needs. They are hardworking, but Bahekeye laments the lack freedom to venture outside the camp and find jobs.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has built the house they live in Mtendeli, with support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The shelters are made of mud bricks, wooden support beams and iron sheets for the doors and roof.

Shelter is one of the main concerns for people living in the camp. Around 36,000 new shelters are needed, but the humanitarian community only has funding for 16,000. NRC is constructing shelters and building primary schools.

Can’t go back

"We need peace and harmony around us. We cannot go back to Burundi, but we don’t have any land to farm in Tanzania." says Bahekeye.

Their eldest son Bucumi used to take care of them in Burundi. Unfortunately, he became a target of armed groups, locally known as "Imbonerakure" which means "those who see far". They accused him of supporting the opposition political party. Bucumi had to run into hiding, and the old couple remained without help.

Years in hiding

Life in Burundi was very difficult. "My husband spent more than five years hiding from militias who were trailing him every day," says Perose. The armed groups suspected both Bahekeye and his son to be opposition party supporters since neither ever attended meetings organised by the ruling party.

One day, Bucumi returned and told his father that there was a chance they would survive if they fled to Tanzania. To avoid being seen by any armed groups, they woke up before dawn and walked for three hours. There were eleven of them on the road. Fear and uncertainty dominated the nighttime journey.

At some point the group split into two to attract less attention. The group headed by Bucumi did not make it across the border. A group of security men stopped them and ordered them to go back to Burundi. This was the last time Bahekeye and Perose saw their son.

The couple managed to reach Tanzania without him. And they know they’ll get through what’s to come.

“We have sacrificed many things to survive. Till death do us part, we have vowed to remain together,” says Bahekeye.