April 2, 2007
By Musa Ngubane (Behind The Mask Reporter)
Gay people from countries such as Nigeria, Uganda, Burundi just to mention a few constantly come to Behind the Mask (BTM) to tell their stories of prejudices for being gay.
Burundian gay man, Iram Manirambona* (27), has spent almost two years running from country to country fearing for his life because of his sexual orientation. It started in June 2005 when his partner’s brother caught them having sex at the boyfriends home. “He came to my boyfriend’s room, found us in a very compromising situation and he called the police”, Irambona said.
Both Manirambona and his boyfriend were detained for one week, where they were badly treated, “All the policemen wanted to see us, they ridiculed and threatened us. Even prisoners looked at us as though we were the worst criminals.”
During his arrest, Manirambona was already a member of an underground gay organization in Burundi. His friends assisted in releasing them from prison. They then fled to Tanzania, where they were housed by friends for a year. “In Tanzania I was mistreated, and as a result I stayed locked up in the house and I was afraid that the Burundians who do trade in Tanzania will discover me.” As a result from this trauma Manirambona became mentally ill.
Having realized that Tanzania was very awkward and problematic, he illegally traveled to South Africa only to realize that he had to transit Malawi. “I stayed there for one month behind closed doors again because I did not have official documentation to be in the country”, Manirambona described.
Fearing that he would be migrated back home, he skipped Malawi with friends to seek refuge in South Africa. “We were locked at the back of a truck, God helped us and we reached here safely.”
Although he has cousins here in South Africa, he couldn’t go to them because he knew they couldn’t assist him in any manner.
As much as Manirambona still loves his country he is not planning to go back. “There are plans to eradicate homosexuality in Burundi through the Penal Code, so there is no point for me to go back. I would rather stay in South Africa as it is the only country in the continent where the freedom of LGBTI people is guaranteed.”
In Burundi, Manirambona was only taken care of by his friends. “My family didn’t care that much for me. Even though my cousins in Pretoria know how much I am suffering. They won’t help me because I am gay, they continue to ostracize me”, he asserted.
Manirambona has never seen his partner since they separated in Tanzania.
* Not his real name