Monday, March 06, 2006

"Other people decide about it"

This is the story of Innocent Nkung. Unlike one of my earlier experiments, it is not fiction.
I wish it were, though.

For now, Innocent Nkung lives in the next town over from the town where I live now. I've never met him, but have had occasion to learn a little about him. He's a few years older than me, but not many. He and I have two things in common: we are both foreigners and we have both studied philosophy. There, however, the similarities end.

I have other places where -- if push came to shove -- I could live. Other places where my right to work, to be a political creature, to subsist and indeed to do more than that, are acknowledged. And to a considerable extent (certainly far greater than when I lived in the U.S.), I have those same rights here.

Innocent Nkung does not. There is no place in the world where he has these rights -- or rather he has no place in the world where these rights have been respected. He fled to the United Kingdom seeking asylum and the Home Office turned him down: he is at risk of immediate deportation.

A human rights activist in the D.R.C. from 1992 onwards, Innocent Nkung had been arrested many times. The Independent Race and Refugee News Network states that on his most recent arrest in January 2005 he was "given the 'option' of a 15-year jail term or 'volunteering' for Secret Service Training. After he refused to kill others as part of this 'training', he was incarcerated in the notorious Buluwo prison, where he was raped, beaten and tortured. "

He escaped and fled to the United Kingdom in May 2005; his case for asylum was declined in December of the same year. Reading between the lines, it seems that he was turned down because he was unable to prove that he was raped and tortured in prison. Alas, those responsible for his incarceration in the D.R.C. had carelessly failed to supply him with certified copies in triplicate, detailing, for the official record, the treatment he had received at their hands.

Here is what he said about his life two months ago:

"If I call what I and others in the D.R.C. have been through as physical torture, I realise there is another torture in England - a mental one and it is greater than the first one: I can't sleep because there are a lot of thoughts in my head and feelings - nightmares and flashbacks. I am very depressed and unable to do things. I think about my children, parents, brothers and sisters that I didn't see since 1995. My children need to be cared for and I can't do my father's job if I am in jail or dead.

'My life doesn't belong to me anymore and other people decide about it. I don't know what is going to happen in my life, I don't know where I am going to live, I don't know what I am going to eat. Everything is in the Home Office people's hands."

If you wish, you can sign a petition in support of Innocent Nkung's asylum claim.

And perhaps like me, you will also ponder why it is that the U.K. doesn't want this man, who had the unyielding moral integrity to choose imprisonment, torture and rape over becoming a killer, within its borders.


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