Drum – 15 August 2019

(Barré) #1



LL HE had were the
clothes on his back and
a pair of sandals made
from an old rubber tyre.
Kennedy Gihana was
well aware that he was
hopelessly ill-equipped
to walk almost 6 000km
from Rwanda to South Africa – but he
had no other choice.
He’d been labelled a traitor and there
was a target on his back. To stay would
mean certain death.
But to go also posed many life-threat-
ening risks: on the remote back roads he
planned to walk, the odds of encounter-
ing bandits, police and wild animals
were high.
Yet it was a risk worth taking, he decid-
ed, for the chance at a better life.
And so, early one morning in 1998, he
started walking. He had no idea how he
was going to fend for himself but along
the way it soon became clear.
“I survived on Ubuntu,” Kennedy (47)
says as he chats to us in a hotel in Cen-
turion, near Pretoria. “It was African hu-
manity that helped me stay alive.”
Everywhere he went, help miracu-
lously materialised. “People in rural
areas, people in townships, people
in African villages – they don’t have
a problem. They’ll help and will
share whatever they’ve got.”
It took him six months but at last
he arrived in Johannesburg. Only to
discover that that’s where his real jour-
ney began. With hardly any money to
his name, he was forced to sleep on the
streets. Then came a series of poorly
paid jobs and an uphill battle with home
affairs to acquire refugee status.
But throughout it all, Kennedy refused
to give up. Having risked everything to
get here, he wasn’t going to allow red
tape or anyone to stand in his way.
More than two decades on, he’s a suc-
cessful human rights lawyer with his
own firm – living proof of what can be
achieved with a bit of guts and determi-
“If you want something in this world,
there’s nobody who can do it for you,”
says Kennedy, who’s now the subject of a
documentary, Rat Roads, on the History
channel (DStv, channel 186).
As he speaks, there’s a steely glint in his
spectacled eyes. “It’s all up to you,” he
adds. “If you’re suffering today, persevere
and it will be a channel or tunnel to a
better future.”



He trekked 6 000km from Rwanda to

Mzansi with only his matric certificate to

his name – now Kennedy Gihana is a lawyer


18 | 15 AUGUST 2019 http://www.drum.co.za
Free download pdf