This is the devastating lifestory of Amina Ingabire.

Amina has told the story of her life to Saskia Smith. It is a story of violence, of abuse, of assault, of rape, of violent men, of untrustworthy people. The story of a woman who kept going, who decided to make her own decisions.

Amina is raised in Zaire where her father worked in a stonequarry. When she is four years young the family moves back to the roots of father, in Vunga. Father stays behind in Zaire with another woman. Two years later her father comes back to Vunga. He has been fired due to alcoholism. This is just one of the many hardships for Amina. Her mother resorts to the alcohol as well. Her father is an absent father, her brothers become abusive and violent.

When Amina is 13 years young she is raped by an old man at the waterwell. She become pregnant and leaves home. A life on the road starts, a life filled with hardship, violence, begging for food, temporary jobs, sleeping under a bridge, and always the danger posed by men on the prowl.  Military violence is present, from within the borders and from outside the borders. Her first child dies, a second child is raised by her mother and dies during the great upheavels of the civil war. There is one young man who is different. His name is Innocent, but he is killed when his armycar is bombed.

She flees the country and moves to Zaire. In a refugee camp she gets the opportunity to work with the medical staff. She has decided that she will determine her own life, no longer to be decided upon by men. One day one of her brothers shows up at the camp. He has travelled from Germany, he will try to get Amina out of the country to a safe place. Amina and her relative Denise fly from Goma to Nairobi, helped by an old man, who wants to help people, not to get sexual favours in return. 

For a long period she stays in Nairobi. Denise gets a ticket to fly to Germany. Amina is left behind. She works as a hairdresser and she has clients in high places. She manages to get a fake Kenyan passport. She flies out of the country, on her way to Germany, but she has to leave the plane at Amsterdam. Then she enters the procedure to seek asylum. Even in The Netherlands the Rwandan men she meets still behave as at home, dominant, treating women like cheap labour and for quick sexual satisfaction. Due to the asylum procedure she might have a future in The Netherlands. In the end she gets the Dutch nationality.

As I said in the beginning: this is a devastating story. A story of a scarred woman, who is courageous, who wants to decide her own future, who is prepared to take up any kind of work to build her future. But her life in Rwanda is still present in her nightmares, when she lives in The Netherlands and when she visits Rwanda after many years. In Rwanda she visits the old places where she slept, where she was chased away from the garbage bins at a hotel (where she now has a meal, with her sister), where she tried to survive, where she walked around with her child strapped to her back.  

The title of her book is “Behind the mountains”. As a small child she asked her mother what was behind the mountains. her mother replied that God was living behind the mountains. 

Amina lives in The Netherlands with her Dutch husband and a child.

Saskia Smith & Amina Ingabire – Achter de bergen. De overlevingstocht van een Afrikaanse vluchtelinge – 2011

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I enjoy reading about Africa. New books. Old books. By African writers. By non-African writers. Novel. History. Travel. Biographies. Autobiographies. Politics. Colonialism. Poetry.

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