Rwandan journalist embracing life in faraway Australia – Eric’s story

Published by Joanna Pitta on

Eric and his family in Australia with Lynn Carter, former Director of PoC

Paying a high price for expressing his views

Eric is a human rights defender, a journalist from Rwanda, and a father of four. He was routinely harassed by state agents for critically reporting on the government’s socioeconomic policies, for fighting for justice, press freedom and democracy in Rwanda. Paul Kagame’s administration has a negative track record of intimidating journalists and supressing independent reporting – and Eric experienced this persecution at first hand. In 2012, he was being followed and received threatening phone calls. In 2014, after he was warned that his life was in danger for expressing his views, Eric decided to flee to neighbouring Uganda with his family.

A precarious life in limbo

Threats and intimidation followed Eric and his family at the refugee camp they were residing in Uganda. Reprisal attacks by the Rwandan government against dissidents living in exile is common, and so PoC awarded a grant to help Eric relocate to a safe house, temporarily away from the dangers of the refugee camp.

However, the difficulties Eric had to face did not end there. He dealt with the strenuous practical and psychological consequences of living in limbo, waiting to be resettled by UNHCR in the distant USA. With no source of income, Eric was struggling to provide food, water, clothing, and medicine for his family. PoC awarded several grants to help Eric cover their basic living expenses, while they remained in hiding and at risk. And when they though that everything was in place for them to be resettled in the US, the Trump administration halted the programme, and Eric and his family were once again caught up in limbo, waiting for their future to be decided by the people in charge and coincidental world developments.

Eric was then told to apply for resettlement in the eastern part of the globe – in faraway Australia. While he was patiently waiting for a decision to be made, he was again exposed to new threats and needed help relocating.  PoC supported Eric and his family, while they were waiting for the endless process to run its course. After two years of waiting, Eric received a final grant by PoC to buy the necessary luggage, clothes and items for their resettlement in Australia.

A new life away from home

Eric and his family are finally safely settled in Australia. The children are at school and Eric has a driving licence. In Eric’s words:

‘Thank you! I am and I’ll be always very grateful about everything you have done on my behalf.’

Lynn Carter, the former director of PoC, visited the family in Brisbane and was pleased to see that Eric is finally able to get on with his life:

‘It was such a joy to finally meet Eric and his family after years of email contact when he was in hiding.  He was clearly relieved and grateful to be in a safe place. It is, of course, a huge adjustment for them all, but it was inspiring and humbling to see how they were embracing their new life with optimism and resolve.’