Christmas should celebrate love amongst families and friends. But it's not always a happy time, especially for Queer refugees in Africa and around the globe.
Good parents normally love their children no matter what. What happens when this fails?
One of the worst episodes in my friend Onics Bukenya Yusuf's life occurred when he was discovered with his boyfriend at school in Uganda. His late father's biggest regret was that he didn't bring his machete to the school to finish him off. How can love die so quickly?
I have known Onics for around 2 years and he is not the only person with whom we have worked in supporting Queer refugees in East Africa. Life for these people is horrendous, facing violent oppression and death for who they love. Thankfully, Onics is now safely in the U.S.A. but he is still working with the safe house he started in Nairobi to support refugees who are not entitled to work and who sometimes can only live on the streets reverting to sex work to survive.
In this interview, he tells his story. I have not heard it before and I have to tell you I found it heartbreaking as my questions took him back to dark periods of his life that he would rather forget. The enemy is culture - often fed by religion - requiring families to stop loving their child because he/she/they don't fit the acceptable mould that is what the community expects. Where in this is love?
I ask how can I not love my children. How can I not love my grandchildren?
I understand a little because I spent years in a fundamentalist cult where there was a strong belief in good and evil. Similar thinking to that which made Onics life miserable. Such thinking now makes me sick. Where is love?
Please listen and please consider supporting our work. The Patreon link is embedded in each podcast. Please, please also share the podcast with your friends. Humanity matters. Justice matters. Love is everything, but indifferent silence kills.
so today I have, Yossef Onyx. I call him Onyx as most other people do. And Onyx, I think I've known you for around 18 months. Is that right? Or am I cutting it too short or too long? probably more than 24 months. Yeah. Do you really think so? Goodness, how time flow? More than two years. Goodness gracious. I must be, I need to start keeping a diary. So now Onix, you, you were born in Uganda. Yep. I was born in Uganda in, central Uganda. That is Masaka. Masaka. Okay. And what was life growing up for you in Uganda like, growing up in Uganda is, it's, it's non, I, I, I mean in these centuries, not like, okay. When I was growing up, it was not that bad because, Uganda still was rich in everything. Food and, yeah. Cause I grew up in a village whereby you never had to buy food. And then, it wasn't that bad cause communities were so welcoming. They're so good. They, yeah. Culturally we are, we are still following our cultures, but. Until when you grow up and then things start changing. So things start coming up. But at the early age, Uganda would be a very good country to grow up in. Okay. Fair enough. That's lovely. So, your family, you had a father and mother and, and brothers and sisters or what? Yeah. It's a kind of wide family whereby my dad had used to get my, like, to have a wife and then at the end they separate and he gets another one. So I have almost, eight siblings. Okay. Yeah. I am the third one and, and the race are just below me. Like they're small than me. So, my mom died. My dad died. Yeah, that's, in 2000 I think. Yeah. Okay. So did they die before your, your troubles began when you be had to become a refugee? no. They, they died after, yeah, my mom died after, and my dad died after my, actually my dad. My dad, they both died when I had already flew from home when I had, I was just living by my own in the city after escaping from my village and stopping school. Okay. And how old would you have been then, Onyx, when you, when you left home oh, I think I was, I was, making 19 something. Okay, okay. No, no, no, no. Sorry. I had, I think I had reached 20. Yeah. I had reached 20. Okay. Now you, you've, you've told me Onyx that you, you identify as bisexual. Sure. That's true. That's you. Okay, cool. when did you first recognize that, you know, you, you were attracted to both, girls and boys? I was in high school. I was, I was 19. Okay. Yeah, I was in high school. I was 19 and, I was in, form two kinda Okay. Form two or three. Yeah. I was in form two, and this is when I came to realize that I was attracted to my fellow boys on, on both guards. Yeah. Okay. Were, so did it become a problem for you then? Like when, when people Yeah, it, took a while, like a year before. Other people recognize that. Yeah. Or before they could take it serious because, in, in high school in Uganda, we getting attracted to fellow boys. It's, they may not take it serious until you make a move and maybe you say, Hey, you know what? I'm in love with you. This is when things go crazy because this, you don't know this person how he's going to take it. Or maybe, you know, that is in, that is an 2000, but right now it's self sensitive. Right now anybody will just know because in those years it was so, it, it wasn't that much, people did not even believe it. Yeah. That it happens. Yeah. You know, so, but right now, even if you don't make a move, they will just look at you, the way you look at somebody, the way you care about somebody. and they would tell, but before that, it was until you mention it or maybe until you make a move. Okay. What, what, what has made it worse? Do you think, I mean, what do you know, I know the law, the laws have come in or, they've been strengthened against, gave people and so on. But, what, what do you think is behind making things worse for l lgbtq people in Uganda or Kenya? Culture. Culture. Okay. Yeah. Culture is the biggest problem because in, I, I will speak, if I speak on behalf of Uganda, it's the same as Kenya or the same as okay. But mostly in Uganda it's culture because they still believe in their culture. Yes. And community. Yeah. this is whereby. some parents would like to accept you, but the community and culture does not allow them. Okay. Yeah. We just imagine maybe your dad is, a reverend somewhere. Yeah. Or your dad is, achieve at the village. Yeah. When you come out, it's, it's something he cannot bear. He will, okay. He will either have or find a way to eliminate you, of which that is killing you. And because they think there is no way he's going to explain to the whole community that, yeah, I accepted him. You know? Okay. He will lose, he may, he will lose everything like trust and respect and everything, so they better kill you. And again, they don't have any assurance that you are the one who came out alone. No one else is going to do that in the same family. Yeah. So they're worried. What if when once you come out and then the little brother who is next to you or maybe the last born do the same thing? So they, they think if they kill you, it'll ruminate the shame from the family. Like they take your dad or your family to have shown braveness. Okay. Because at that moment they take you as a cast. They don't, they have never imagined a man having sex with a man. So they take you as a caste, they think you are caste. So what they do, they have to eliminate the cast from the family. Yeah. And that is the only thing your dad would show to the community that Yeah, this happened to me. I couldn't. Yeah. So the word you are saying for for other listeners is cursed. That's okay. I'm just saying so that people understand. Yeah. Because they, they think you are cursed. You, they think you can't do anything for your life, for, for yourself in your life. They, they see you as useless, completely useless. So in, in my, you know, when I've looked at, research this, this subject, it seems that there weren't issues in many tribes across Africa with these, with, you know, same sex bisexual or even trans people, that they were accepted in many tribes. That's what I seem to under seem to read and, and research. But that changed with what we might term western religion. Is that something that you, you also agree with or in your understanding? Would you repeat that one more time, please? your religious faith as a child was Islamic. Is that correct? That's correct. Muslim. Okay. What I've read is that, prior to the Christian missionaries coming in, or Islamic missionaries coming in, the tribes across East Africa and other parts of Africa, many of them ha were, were accepting that my son, you know, is in modern terms, gay or my daughter is a lesbian or, or, they're even trans. They want to, identify as a different sex to what they were born. But that changed with the missionaries. Have you read that sort of stuff or not? No, I haven't. It's worth, it's worth looking into. I mean, for example, there was a Ugandan king, I think in the 19th century who, had gay partners and everybody knew. So it was not an issue. But the missionaries came in with their understanding of the Bible, which isn't, which was only an interpretation by the way. It's not actually that clear in the Bible And the other thing is with old scriptures, of course, is that in Iowa, say if I have, a heart problem and I need a heart transplant, I'm not going to go to the Bible to get my answers as to how to do it. I'm not going to get a physician to operate on me in the way they did in Jesus' day. All right. I'm gonna go to modern medicine. So let's move on from that, Onyx. what happened in your family did you, did you have an interest in another boy at school? That Yeah. It happened, it happened at school and, the school had to, expel me from the school. Okay. Actually, I was, firstly was attacked by the school students. We were beaten and then the teachers saved us not knowing what was going on. Oh, okay. And when they were told what was going on, because they found us having sex in bathrooms. Okay. Okay. So what happened is, the teacher, when the teacher saved us, they had to lock us into different rooms. Trying to figure it out because it was kind of new in their ears. They're like, they couldn't accept it. So they were trying to figure it out, hearing from different students who got us. And then after confirming, then they asked my colleague, whom I was having sex with, he confirmed, he said, yes, we have been having sex. So immediately they had to expel us from school. they gave us letters that expel us from school, but it was kind of late. They couldn't let us leave the school that night. Okay. So they locked us into those different rooms until, and then they invited our parents. So in the morning, my father was the first one to come, and I, he, he was, explained everything. He, couldn't, he couldn't figure it out. He was so mad. And this was, somebody who was so tough. Cause even at the village, people used to fear him for even no reason, but because he was just tough naturally. Okay. So when they told him this, he, he just said, oh, I wish I had came with my, my, my machete maybe. Cause I don't want, oh God, get, I don't want to hear these stories anymore. So what happened is they unlocked me from the room and brought me outside of other students who were just shouting at me, bullying me and talking nonsense, like, just insulting me with all sorts of words. But what happened, they told him. So the envelope you see with him, we have expelled him from this school is not allowed to come back here anymore. So they had already packed my mattress and everything. so knew you. So for people listening, you would've actually slept at the school. Cause lots of schools I slept in, locked into a school kind of small stall. Okay. That was that only because of the incident that you Yeah, because of the incident last night, they could not let me sleep in a dormitory like other students. Okay. They locked us in different, I get it rooms. I get it. Yeah. Yeah. So, from there, my dad just told me, I don't want to see you anymore. Just go and don't sleep at my home. Cause I, you know what I will do. Oh, dear. Yeah. I, how, how did make you feel OnX? How, how you, you know, you're only an 18, 19 year old kid. How did it make you feel? Of course it was sad. I was regretting why I did it. I was feeling sad. I didn't know where to go. I, I didn't have any idea where to start from, but I trusted, that my mom would be on my side, maybe. Mm-hmm. because she was not here, there, but she was at home, so, Hmm. When I reached home and explained everything, she was so mad again. So I was like, so wait, what next? Where do I go? But I knew if my dad had a chance to just get close to me or two of us, or even if there were three and the reason mache next to him, he would have killed me. He would have done that. So I went home. I used our, motorbike with my mattress and suit and my suitcase. I went home, I reached home, I explained everything, and then my mom was like, Okay. Okay. So this is, so you think when you come and tell me, I'll just be like, it's okay. No, it's your daddy to deal with you and I'm sorry for what will happen to you. I can't, I'm sorry. I can't save you. So you are on your own, if that is the route, the road you decided to take. You're on your own. So I was home, but I was so conscious, like, I, I was just, my eyes were open. In case that comes in, I should keep a distance as I hear how I hear and as I see how he reacts to see if he would just leave it that way or he's planning something dangerous for me. So I was in the kitchen, I remember, cause our kitchen was not in the same house, was just outside. I was in the kitchen. And then, I heard his voice coming from far difference, shouting on his loud voice and saying, no, I cannot allow this. We have to, we, we have to kill him. We have to eliminate him. We cannot stay with this kind of a curse. I am so ashamed of myself. Then I knew it won't go well. What happened when he came home? He had already bought a new machete. He came with a new machete when he was coming back home. So when I saw him, I just rounded, the kitchen and then escaped from there. But I did not go far. I went to, next village, but no. At the next village I was, I stayed with a friend. They didn't know what was going on. Just trying to make sure to hear what is exactly happening home. So I, the next thing, the next day in the morning, I ca I sh I sneaked home and I found, my mom was badly beaten by my dad. I think, oh, God. I did not have time to ask because I didn't know where my dad was. So when I saw her lay, laying down with her face was just, bruised, full of bruised and swollen and everything. I knew it's my dad who had done that, and I think she tried to show maybe some kind of empathy or maybe feel maybe being on my side. That's what I think, so that's why my dad beaten her badly. I just sneaked into the house and took some few clothings with me, and then I went back to my friend's place and yeah, from there, I tried to stay there like three days. I was just trying to see how the situation will go, get to see if he will leave it and come down, or if he's still trying to look for me. So the next day when I was trying to, after two days when I was trying to come back home to have some kind of information, what's going on, on ground, I found one guy, he was, he was my friend at the village. He told me, if I were you, I would never come back with this village. It's not only your dad who is looking for you, but everybody, everybody was put on a lot. If they see you, they will communicate and then you'll be surrounded of, and they will just ban you. So that's when I left my village. That was, 2000, five, 2005. Okay. I left the village and then, yeah, I headed to the city where I did not have anyone there. So I started sleep staying on streets of Kampala. Go ahead. Okay. How, how long were you in Kampala before you had to move further, but before you decided to go to, Kenya? I was in Kampala since 20, cause that was when I moved to Kampala was December 20. 2005 and I was in Kampala 2000 5, 6 7, sorry, six, seven and 2008. I was also attacked by, the community where I was living. After I had, I was coming home with my, boyfriend. So here I had already, I had already forgotten what happened to me back in village. I had started, forgetting about my family and just living by my own. I was struggling on streets to get some food. And then, so I got a guy, whom we try to date, and, he could visit me regularly. So the people at the village where I was staying, they tried to understand what was going on between me and my guy, but this guy was so, I would say as much as I could keep it, low, like not too many people to understand it, to know what's going on. Yeah. Yeah. This guy was so dramatic, was everything. You know, he, when he, he was talking, he throws the hands. He just behaved garish. Okay. I think this is the reason why these people were like, no, this is not what we need on our village, okay? For them. They, they told me peacefully. They told me, we don't want to do anything. It's your life. You decided to do that, but we don't want you on this village. The chief of that village is the one who warned me and he told me, I am doing this, not because I support what you're doing, but just because I don't want to hear or to see on the TV station that. The people of this village killed somebody because of this? No. Just go like, get lost. Okay. I took some two weeks trying to think what next? Then people couldn't be patient and more they came, to my house. They knocked the house. I was alone. I asked what's going on? They said, where is your wife? I was like, my wife, I don't have a wife. They said, the one whom you call your wife, they said, my boyfriend is not here. They told, let me. Okay, that's what we want. They brought me outside. I, they made me sit down. I was putting on just, undies. They made me sit down and they, they asked me some questions. One was asking me why did I decide to become gay? Another one was, asking me, does my family know about this? Another one asked me, they were three questions. How long? Yeah. Another one was asking me, how long are you planning to be a gay? Is it for some few time or just that is you, Before I answered this question, one guy behind me kicked my back and because I, it was unexpectedly, I just landed down flat. So when I landed down flat, they, I was feeling too much pain and I, it was hard for me to, then, and he, he went ahead and then stepped on my back. When I was lying down, he stepped on my back. He said, this is the right time to kill him. What are we waiting for? fortunately in that moment, I just had somebody shouting and saying, no, leave him. Let him just go and leave. Leave our village. We don't need to kill him. Let him go. But we don't need him on a village. So this was the same chief who had warn me before. Okay. He said and told them, I can convince him to leave this. We don't need to have to have police coming around looking for who killed, who, taking people to jail for nothing. So, you wouldn't want his blood to be on you because he's already cursed. That cast is enough for him. So if you kill him, his blood is going to be on you for nothing. Why would you allow that? So he woke me up and he told me to go in the house pack that he, he told me, pack things, you can carry in your bags and leave the rest. I went inside, I just, I was rushing cause I was shivering. I wasn't feeling fine. I just threw some few clothings in my suitcases and my bag and when I was stepping outside the house, they told me that is it said yes. So they, they, they said, stand there. I stood somewhere where they were watching me. They brought everything outside in a compound and they burned it. They say, we are burning this to show you that we were going to burn you. Into these things. The couch, the TV and everything, we are going to burn you in these things, but we are burning these things to show you that you don't need any, you don't have anything on this village. Don't ever come back. So I left that village and then I had some, I had sent some money and I felt I had to leave Kampala. Then I went to the Juba, South Sudan. This is 2008. Yeah. I went to South Sudan and I started another life there by Hawking Clothings for some people who had big stocks. I would, walk around with selling cloth, sorry, selling clothings and coming back in the evening. And then you give the money to the boss and then. He gives you some shares, some according to how you agreed. Yeah. So, I lived in Juba 2008, 2009, and then 2011, i, I, I, I dated somebody and actually he's the one who approached me. Cause in Juba it was so deadly than in Uganda to know that you are gay. So this guy had lived, I think in Australia or Malaysia, any country, just, I don't remember well, but, so he, this guy approached me. Then he say, oh, I like you. I was like, no, I'm not, I'm not gay because I know it had took me through a lot of un Sudan. Yeah. Guns are everywhere. Yeah. Everybody has a gun. Yeah. Just a small mistake. You're shot. So I thought, I thought maybe he just wanted to know if I'm one, so that he kills me. He told me. I know, I can see, I can tell you up. Told him, okay. I, it took me some time to, to accept because I was worried. I dated this guy. We could go out and have drinks, come back home. But this guy, the father was, the father was, a general in the army of South Sudan and this guy was called, James. So James, we dated at J with Jameson, time went and his older brother was in the Army too. So they went through, they went through his phone. and they saw our texts, which I did not know. He did not know either. So they saw our texts and they started stalking us to know what's going on. They could see every message in his phone, and they could know every move. So what happened is it was towards 2011, December, it was Saturday, James was at my home. My house just, it's just a, a small house. And, we had spent a whole day together. So it was around five 30 approaching six. I told him, Hey, let me go and, and get some fresh drinks at the shop. So I left him in the house and went the nearby shop. I had a business just close to my house. It was, yeah, it was, there were different businesses I had set up. Just closed my house. So I left my house. I passed by my business cause I had boys whom I was working with. Yeah. I went to the shop. So when I went to the shop, I was having a conversation with the shop owner while buying and picking what I wanted. And then we had some bullets. The bullets were coming from my compound when I. When I stepped outside the show, I had, I saw people running, coming from the side where I, I resided, and then a, a certain woman was shouting my name, who was shouting my name. Oh, he was, she was shouting in ca in, in Logan. That's our local language. Like, oh, Onyx has been killed, Onyx has been shot at, the bullets are in Onyx house. And then after mentioning that statement, she saw me. She was like, oh my God, you are here. The bullets are in your house. What's going on? I'm like, when we were still talking that we had other bullets, one in the same place. So what happened is I asked her, what do you mean the bullets are in my house? Yes, they're in your compound. People are shooting at your compound. Who is there? I was like, Other people because it's a compound that has different apartment. I would call them apartments, but not apartments. Yeah, they're just houses in line. This is, on's room. This is Aisha's room. This is Johnny's room. You know? So, what happened is, when I, when we were still having a conversation, a shock conversation with this woman who was shocked, crying that I am shot at, I told her, Hey, no, I'm not the one. I am here. I'm fine. So what's going on? Tell me. That's when we had the second, the, the other bullets, the other two bullets. And then people, another guy came say, somebody's busy looking at you, like looking for you. Somebody's looking for you. Okay, what did you do? He's having an AK47. What did you do? I, I said, I don't know. I just, I said, how, how does he look like he explained. And I knew this person. I just got a motorbike. I called a motorbike person. I sat on a motorbike. I told him to drive me away. To ride me away. So after riding me away, he left me somewhere. And another is after like two other villages. I went there. I, I had some softy drink and to cool myself down to try to figure out what's going on. But by then I were receiving hundreds of hundreds of calls. Everybody's calling me, Hey, are you safe? We had this shot. You inside the house? Yeah. I'm like, I'm like, no, I'm safe, but blood is coming out of your house. Who was in your house? Are they thieves? I'm like, no, then, but I tried to figure out, and then somebody told me what exactly was going on. This guy was after shooting, so this guy, came to my, kicked my door of my house. When he kicked the door, I had left James on my bed just like, because it's, it's just one room. There is one room. There's no room. Yeah. So when he kicked the door and James was lying on bed, when James turned like this, it was a dark, kind of dark. There was no light. Cause it was still, yeah. If they thought it was you, it was me. So this guy shot at the bed like three times, P p p, and then that guy died on spot on my bed. So another dude, my neighbor was a woman, she was called Aisha. She came out saying, Hey Onyx, what's going on? When she reach that, this is what they told me, that when she reached outside, she shouted going, my God, you've killed Onyx for nothing. Onyx is a good guy. This guy shot at her and she died. at the entrance of my house. God dear. It's awful. It's, it was, sometimes I feel like I wish I had not gone to Juba. Cause me going to Juba made two people losing their lives and these are the things that sometimes hit me hardly. And I feel like I am just, I just, that's why most of the times I make some calls. I talk to people like Robert and Richard and we talk for long, but for them, they never know why I am calling them to bring some funny stories with them. But for me it's just because I be feeling it's hard for me to keep. So, yeah. And I don't have friends around here, so what I do, I just make calls. I talk for two hours and I feel I'm fine. So hearing this, I had to leave Juba. Go back to Uganda. Yeah. So Onyx, that's, you know that, that, that's a horrible, horrible story and I don't know how you cope with it. I mean, we talk these days, we talk about people having ptsd, you know, which is, it's to do with trauma and, and trauma that, that stays in you. And, you know, you get triggered, something happens and it reminds you of what happened and you might react in some way. Might be fear, it might be anger, whatever. And sometimes you're not even sure why you acted that way or why that feeling came up, but that's what, what is the trigger from, from the experience. Look, I feel so much for you and I think, you know, I just. Hope that at some stage you can get some help or some, you know, some good friends in America who can sort of stand by you. And cuz you are a good man. You are a good man. Yeah. I, and thank you, thank you for, for, for, you know, going, telling me this story must be traumatic for you anyway because you Yeah. I, I rarely talk about it. I don't, I just feel, I just feel, if I tell it to somebody, they'll start judging me. Those two people died because of you. No, it's not Right. Cause of you. So I, I must, I just keep quiet and sometimes when I'm talking about things I've gone through, I mostly, I talk about those that I have gone through personally, not those that I made other people go through. Yeah. But look, it's not, it really isn't. And I know that these are deep feelings within you. So, So my just saying it now doesn't change it immediately for you in any way, but, this, it's not your fault. You know, it's, it's the fault of culture. It's the fault of society. I mean, our, our world, the best of, Christianity, the best of, the Muslim religion and many religions, and the best of humanitarianism is, is loving people, being kind to them and expecting the best for them. And I know that's what you want. Let, let's talk about something, you know, like let me move on. I know I gave you a few questions and I'm gonna, I'll probably come back to a couple of those. But, you know, in my time of knowing you, which you have now reminded me, is over two years, all right? Mm-hmm. Yep. I've seen you as a kind and generous man. you know, you're always wanting to support your friends, and I believe you are a man with high principles and one to be trusted. And you know, you've, you've helped us many times in our aim to help people in, situations where you are you were in you know, and you've been Johnny, we say Johnny on the spot. You've been the man there on the spot. I've got two images of you in my mind and I I told you that I would mention this to you. One is the photo or one is the man that's looking at me Now at the moment, you're looking tired. You've had a big day and you've just told me a really horrible traumatic story. But, through that I can still see the kind and you know, sweet man that you are. Okay. But then you sent me a photograph a couple of months ago and you asked me not to share it, which I didn't do, and it was of you in a prison. And, it was a Kenyan prison, I think. And you, you looked terrible. You looked huddled in the corner. And it wasn't you at your best in any way. And my heart broke to see that. And my heart breaks to think of the difference between the man who's sitting there now and the man I've spoken to on many occasions. You know, your lovely smile and so on. But then the other one was that this person who was so terribly treated in prison. Why were you imprisoned? Was it in Kenya? Yeah, this was 2016 after I left Uganda and I was seeking asylum in Kenya. And actually it was 2017 when I was in, in the camp. Refugee camp. We were a group of, kind of 18 or 20. And, firstly we were called at a UNHCR compound in Nairobi and by the Kenyan police, with the help of UN police. And they arrested us. We went, we stayed in cells for two, for one night, and the next day they had to drive us on gunpoint towards the camp, which is 24 hours drive. And you're talking about Kakuma camp? Yeah, yeah. We were driven from Nairobi to Kakuma camp, refugee camp, 20 hours nonstop on gunpoint. Why, why, why, why were you arrested? okay. We, we were living in Nairobi and UNHCR was. Kindly like was trying to help us with some little money to pay our rent. Yeah. And then all of a sudden they stopped. They said, we don't have any more fundings. So we were just, we didn't have anywhere to go. We would like, everybody was like, how am I going even to tell my landlord that I can't pay rent anymore? So the only option I had was to go to UNHCR. So we found ourselves there. What are you really here for? The landlord evicted me. What are you here for? I was evicted because I can't pay lo rent. Why? What about you? So we found ourself like 30 or 25 of us, the same situation. So we did not even plan, we did not have a plan that we are demonstrating or anything. We were just, we found ourselves there because in our back we had the same issue that we were evicted from houses. So when we were just standing there discussing how, what can we do? The police just surrounded us and we were beaten and we were taken to cells. We slept there the next morning. Okay. They just drove us to the Kakuma refugee camp without any other Yeah. Option. So when you reach in the camp, they threw us to the reception center, Kamar three reception center, and they drove away. They said, this is where you belong. It's a long journey. You cannot walk from the Kakuma refugee camp to Nairobi. No. So we, we were like, what next? Because this is how they brought me I don't have any other clothes to change. So, so you didn't have any clothes with you or anything that you, you know, you were dressed. Nobody had a bag. None of us had a bag. We were, because we were when the landlord, when, when the month. Get ends and you don't have a source to give the landlord. And the person who was giving you was UNHCR they're not responding to your calls. They told you there is no more funds. So you wake up, you close the room, the house we are staying. You go to UNHCR to seek answers, to know what's going on, how am I gonna do it? So we did not have bags. So when we were at the reception, nobody was caring to know what's going on with our life. We slept there one day, two days. Nobody's, we expected UNHCR to come and approach us and say, Hey, this happened we are sorry, but we are going, we are trying to figure out how we can help you. Nobody minded. So what we have, we, we did was, okay, if this is what is going on, we have to have a kind of peaceful, protest. We got some manila papers. We wrote our information, Hey questions, and then we were just standing without saying anything. The police came again, they arrested us. They took us there. We slept there two nights. The next day they drove us to the court. The court charged us, creating this disturbance as the case and they drove us to prison to serve for one year, no, sorry, for one month. For one month. Wow. So we were driven to Lola Prison and we served for one month. So, before we were driven to Lwa at the second night, this is when some refugees from the camp who are not part of our team, they came to say hi to see Howard Discrimination, and then that's when that picture, we, those picture were taken. Ah, well thank, thank you for telling me that. I mean, it's a, again, that's a horrible story for people who, who, who don't know. Now I do know because with humanity in need, as you know, we've been paying rents as we can. And we, we know that when we've not been able to do it, people have been thrown out of their house and sometimes they lose their documents, they lose everything. So people may ask the question, well, why don't, why don't refugees work? Why don't they get jobs to pay for their rent? Because they don't understand. So, so that's the first question. Onyx. Okay. Refugees in Nairobi, they're not given working permit. Okay. They are not, they're not given working permit by the Kenyan government. Because we asked this question in so many forums with the government, the refugee department, they said, we cannot give you a permit for one reason. Even our fellow Kenyans do not have jobs, so there is no way we are going to give you work permit to allow you to work. Then, we were like, okay, me getting a job, it depends on my knowledge and maybe my chance. I think I have a right to have a working permit because I can work and change my life. So what happened? They said, no, they can't do that. Okay. When they say they can't give us a working permit. So reasons why refugees in Nairobi and asylum seekers cannot get jobs is because they don't have work permits. And yeah, most of them don't speak Swahili, of which in Nairobi, Swahili is the first language. That's what I would say. Of course. Someone to give you a job at their business, you need to know the language that will, you will discuss with the customers. Yes or with clients. Yes. So refugees do not know Swahili and they, but the most issue is that they don't have work permit. Okay? So you know, I'm a white person, very white. And, so for me, I, can't easily see, tell apart Ugandan people from Kenyan people. Somali people are, a lot taller and they're darker. But I understand you folk can tell the different tribes apart quite easily. Are you stigmatized as a Ugandan in Kenya So where the stigma comes from firstly is, Ugandan refugees in Kenya. It's automatically L GBT. Yeah. Because they know that there is no, okay. If they are con from Congo, somebody would understand because there has been a war in Congo for a long time. Yeah. If they are from Somali, they would definitely understand because there are wars there. But in Uganda, there is no war. So we are Ugandan LGBTQ refugees. Even if it's not an LGBTQ is just having family issues that led this person to flee Uganda they will still be termed as LGBTQ just because they, they ask you in Uganda, there is no war. And this stigmatization comes firstly from the people who work for the government, on the Department of Refugees, because these are the same people who will ask you, so why did you flee your country? Your country, there is no war. But the person who's asking you is the person who is registering you in the refugee system. Okay, so stigmatization starts from day one because they ask you why did, they don't imagine somebody can leave their country without a war. So they're like, why did you leave your country? There is no war in Uganda until you have to go deep. And hey, it's not only war, why people leave their countries. There are so many reasons, but my reason is this specifically. Yeah. And then they start judging you. They start talking nonsense. So stigmatization for Ugandan specifically, it's because there is no war in Uganda. So they think they see every refugee from Uganda as LGBTQ, of which it's true. The biggest percentage are L G B LGBTQ refugees. Though there are some small, cases of political family, the regions here. Okay. I'm thinking of the camps and I'm thinking of Nairobi. And I'm thinking of so many stories of people being beaten up, Ugandan people, gay men, bisexual lesbians and trans people being beaten up in the camps and in Nairobi, sometimes by the police, but some, but quite often not by the police. Is that true? Yeah. In both Kakuma and Nairobi, it is mostly the police. Okay. But in, in Kakuma, it's always. 90% by the police in Kakuma. Even if it's not the police, if the police doesn't want to be involved in those stories, they are the ones who call the natives. Uhhuh. And say, Hey, the people you hate most are out of the come, come and do your job. Come and save your community before your kids and daughters and sons get spoiled. So these people come knowing that the police will not get involved because it's the police who has told them to do it. Yeah. So they don't expect any any punishment from the police punishment if they kill, even if they had to, even if you got police and report, because it's the police who did that. Yeah. It happened to us in the camp where 2018 when we went to UNHCR to seek for answers and protection. The police came to intimidate us and we were so strong and just mute not talking to anyone because we knew we wanted to speak to UNHCR, not the police. So when the police tried to intimidate us and they saw us, we were united and not doing anything stupid, they were like, no, they provoked us in any way, but we were just calm. So what they did, they say, okay, which shall see how it'll end. They went and called the natives. The natives started coming one by one, one by one, one by one. So that is how in Kakuma it happens. In Nairobi, they used to be us, but later on it, it was just showing a bad picture because there are survivors cameras everywhere. So they, in Nairobi, what they do when they catch you, they just take you to jail. These days, they don't beat them, they just take them to jail. You be there for five months, nobody cares. Yeah. And what happens in jail? Do they feed you or we'll give you water? Yeah, of course, of course. There is this funny and small food in, in jail. It's, it's you, everybody in jail should get, will have to get it. So it's not a good food, but you have no option. You have to feed on that until you get you bailed out. Yeah. Okay. Look, I'm, I'm really grateful Onyx, for your courage in sharing with us today. Two, two more questions really. And then, I'll let you, head off because it must be getting late in America for you. And you've had a big day today. The first thing is, what was America like for you when you first arrived there? I can imagine it would've been. I just don't know how it would be to, cuz I've also been to Nairobi and I've been to Kampala. I just don't know how it would be for you to suddenly arrive. Which airport did you land? Mm. LAX. That's LA at Airport. Now tell me, how did you feel? Yeah, I was with some other two refugees from Nairobi. Okay. But every time we could look at each other, we could not believe that it's us who are fleeing from Nairobi to have our freedom somewhere else. Okay. So it was so amazing when I landed to LAX I was like, so this is the US where everybody has a right to do what? to be or to do what they want as long as they don't infringe on somebody's rights. I felt, yeah, I still couldn't believe it. I spent like a month or two without believing. Sometimes I would be, Hey, hey, wake up. Are you in the US? Or I'm like, oh. Then when I look around, I see the white people are more than the black people. I'm like, okay, I'm in the US now. Yeah. Cause in, I, you know, before I left Kenya, I was in a lift. He was in one building, Nairobi and the lift, he was having like 20 of us. And then there was one white guy who was in the lift. The lift was so quiet we were flowing from maybe 15th floor to that, to ground floor. And I had this kind of a feeling cause I was having like six or four or five days to leave Kenya. So I was. I was feeling like, okay, so right now I am seeing the white person alone among the black people who are very many. Yeah. So in the next two weeks I'll be seeing very many white people, but few black people. So this, this was a kind of, I don't know how I can call it. This is something that has been in my mind since whenever I, whenever I think I am not in the U.S., I'm like, am I in the US When I look around and the white people are more than black, I'm like, I, I'm in the US because I know in Africa, the black people are more than white people. So it's opposite. Yeah. So when I landed at lax, it was so amazing. It was just evening around four 30 or five. and our, the migration officer took us to the office and they took my biometrics and they said, yeah, welcome to the United States. So, wow. This is the statement that I will never forget. So he was like, welcome to the United States. I'm like, okay, I am here. Yeah. It was so amazing to know that I am free to know that, the Sudanese family, which has been hunting me in, in Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya again, that they will never find me again. I was happy to know that, yeah, I'm in the U.S., my family, my uncles, whatever, they can't reach me. Even if they find me, they hear, they, there's nothing they can't do to me. I am in another country, and the laws do work other than in Uganda. Even if they kill you and then the police comes and why? What happened? Do the investigation. They say he's a Gay so the police will just, oh, if he's a Gay, just leave it. They cross the case. No more investigation. No more follow up. But what's that? Yeah, I was, I felt kind of relieved. Yeah. I felt relieved. Well, sure wish you the best in your life journey there, but just.. Thank you so much. Just to, just to finish, a few years ago you started your safe house in Nairobi and you've, you had to find donors who would support, because it's very hard. You, can't work to get rent. There's only a couple of options for Ugandan people to do, to work isn't there? And and one of them is really unpleasant. So you started your safe house. How many people do you think you've helped in that compound? Well, I started, this organization in 20 19 towards the end. And, apart from then up to now, I believe, we have helped more than 120. Wow. Thanks. Because, because it's in an emergency shelter whereby somebody's evicted. She doesn't, he or she doesn't have anywhere to go that night or for the next five or 10 days, she just comes in. We just say, yeah, okay. Have somewhere to sleep, have something to eat as you figure yourself out. Yeah. So people in, as they go, as I speak now, we are having, we are having 10 of them and two kids, and yeah, people come and go. When somebody gets emergency where nobody, nowhere to sleep, maybe he's not, they're not safe outside there. They just come in and after a few weeks, three or four, five or even two months, or if they feel safe outside there, they leave and go, nobody, we don't chase anybody. But until when you feel safe, that's when they be like, okay, thank you so much for having me. Here's I should go. So they go and then they continue with their lives outside. I think we have helped more than 120 and. Yeah. Of different, transgenders, gay, bisexual, so many with some kids nonconforming. Yeah. Yeah. And this idea came to me, after the 2018 saga when we were, we were located from the camp again, UNHCR is promising us to pay our rent. And then from nowhere they're like, we are sorry. We can't keep doing the same thing. We don't have money. Then we were like, why did you get us from the camp where we were not paying any bills here in Nairobi, we don't have jobs. You have not given us any grants to start some projects, livelihoods, and you are telling us you don't have any money. So, because by then I was I, I had some few friends, some from some few individual activists and friends like Mike or some others. Sorry to mention the name, so that's all right. I'm sure it's okay. And then, people like, I think, yeah, Geoff. I knew Geoff by then. And then I was like, I think if people who were struggling, if we could gather together in one place and they have a place, cause by then it was called in Nairobi and people were sleeping outside. They were being rained on. The police could come at night, arrest some others, escape. So I thought if we could have a shelter where at least somebody have somewhere to sleep, somebody has something to eat, even if it's one meal a day. At least this person has hope that somebody who is just on the street doesn't know what to eat, where to sleep if it rains, if it gets cold where to run to. So I thought it would be a good idea. I didn't know it'll come, it'll work out because I didn't have any funds. I didn't have anything. But I kept selling this idea to different people that I was talking to on Facebook. And yeah, people liked the idea. I'm glad that, this friend of mine called Michael, he's in Washington DC actually recently, he came to see me here. I met him. That would've been lovely eh, that would've been nice. I met him on Facebook. He didn't know me. I didn't know him. And I explained to him the situation that I was going through. He felt so concerned and he was like, I'm sorry about what you're going through, but I'm not a donor. I don't have any money, but if I wanted to buy you some lunch, how can I do it? So I told him how to do it. I showed him the contact and I slept. So in the morning I found, 1000 Kenya shillings that's $10 on my phone. And he said, if you receive this money, please let me know. I texted him back, I said, I received it. And then he sent me $250 immediately. And then we started chatting, how is, how is everything like? Then later I told him, he asked me, so the situation you are going through, how many of you do you think you are going through the same situation? I said, we are like 500. He was like, oh, that's too much. I wish I could help, but I am unable. Then I gave him my idea, which I already had. In my head and he was like, how long have you been having this idea? I said, maybe a year and a half. He was like, it's amazing idea, so how do you start it? I shared with him the whole thing and he said, okay, that's a good one. Then I will see if I can help in any way. In the next two days, he sent me $1,000. I went and looked for a house. Immediately. I went to UNHCR. I got those who are willing. I was not forcing. I was like, if you feel you need a place where you can sleep where it's not raining, we have got a space. So after getting a house buying some mattresses and yeah they came and slept. The next day I was talking to Geoff. I explained to him everything, he liked everything, and he supported me with some money to buy some mattresses and some bed banks. We purchased them. Yeah, we, that's how we started now having, from having five people, six, seven now we, we can host now more than 10 but within the process it, it has not been that easy. Because donors come and as they go, others are just, they can only do one time donation. But I, I'm glad that, Humanity in Need came in and they liked what I was doing on ground and they like, yeah, Onix, you are helping so many people on ground and we are glad we can help you. When we have funds, please always let us know if if you need some support, emergency support or monthly support, we can help when we have. So I'm glad that you guys came in and yeah, we started working together to make sure that people in Kenya not suffering even if I'm not there. But I also thank God that I have some people that I trust who uses the little donation that we get in the right way to make sure that people get where to sleep, food, to eat some transportation, to go and seek medication. Yeah, it's, it's good to work with you guys. You've been there for us. I really appreciate that. I can't take it for granted. Humanity in Need. It's so amazing you guys, you came through and Yeah. And looking forward to work with you into the future. Well, Onyx it's been lovely talking to you and thank you very much for giving me your time tonight. And, we, we'll talk again obviously, but we won't necessarily record again for a little while. thanks very much Onyx. And thank you so much, David, for your time and yeah, I really appreciate your big heart. You have toward the community in Nairobi, you and Geoff, Brian Coogan and Kath. I really appreciate you guys. You're doing a very, very wonderful job to help our brothers and sisters who are in Nairobi. I know, I'm sure. I talked so many of them and they're like, yeah, these guys have been, they're helping us every time whenever we need. So it's so amazing. We really appreciate you and I appreciate on behalf of myself and for the whole community in Nairobi. Oh, that's, that's wonderful. Thank you very much.