Refugee from Rwanda Feared for His Life

Mr. N, a Rwandan national and a member of the Hutu ethnic group, was 13 years old when in 1994 genocide began in his Rwanda. His father, a church pastor and school director, took responsibility for the Tutsis and Hutus seeking a safe refuge in the school’s buildings.

Mr. N’s father was arrested in 1997, accused of assisting the geno­cide by cataloging peoples’ names. Mr. N believes that the charges were politically motivated. His father denied the accusation, but he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

His father’s condemnation contributed to the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front’s (RPF) persecution of Mr. N. His career at a school was haunted by suspicions from Tutsi students and col­leagues and regular harassment from the RPF. Mr. N resisted demands to join the RPF party. In turn, he was denied promotions at the school, and he experienced escalat­ing interrogation and violent harm.

Mr. N feared for his safety. In January 2011, he fled to the United States and enrolled at a Minnesota university. He con­tacted The Advocates for Human Rights after a friend told him about the organization. With representation from Emily Good, staff attorney at The Advocates, he won his case for asylum in September 2012.

The uncertainty during his 18-month wait was nerve wracking. “Without the help of The Advocates, there would have been very little chance for my case to win,” he said.

As a newly arrived student, life was challenging for him because he did not have a home or a steady source of food. Eventually, he met a family through his church who gave him shelter.

"Minnesotans have been welcoming and gracious people," he said. He found communities through church, other Rwandans, and friends. He faced many adjustments, including the bus system, Midwestern winter, and unfamiliar technologies, such as washing machines.