Silence's story

Silence Chihuri c.Angela Catlin
Silence, from Zimbabwe, has set up the Africa Good Governance Lobby Group (AGGLG)

Silence Chihuri, 39, is a Zimbabwean refugee. As a key founding figure in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), he knows fully the risks that come with opposition politics in Zimbabwe.

It is a risk not just confined to those actively involved in politics, but their immediate families as well. His life would be in grave danger were he to return to Zimbabwe.

Silence, who now lives in Falkirk, Scotland says political events in his home country and Africa in general have inspired him to set up the Africa Good Governance Lobby Group (AGGLG) to lobby for change in African systems of government.

He has also started hosting a radio programme, the African Forum with Radio Kilimanjaro the only African radio station in Scotland were the issues discussed are to do with governance, politics, parliamentary democracy in Africa. One day he would like to see an Africa with a different political landscape from what there is now.

MDC treasurer

Speaking to the Scottish Refugee Council for their annual review Chihuri said, ‘I came here to study in early 2000, but I just wanted to study, finish my studies and go back home. But after I came here things turned for the worse politically and later on economically as well. By the time I’d finished my course things were really bad.

"By that point I was UK treasurer of the MDC and that was a very influential role – mainly a fund-raising and mobilisation post. There has always been this perception in Zimbabwe that all the people here in the UK were the ones who were funding or helping the case for the MDC or opposition politics in Zimbabwe. Even someone who went on holiday to Zimbabwe from Britain would be scrutinised, so being in Britain alone was reason for not going back.

"A lot of people became politicised when they came here, too because if your mother was telling you that your village was set on fire and your houses attacked, of course you will be politicised. People were getting pictured with banners saying terrible things about the Zimbabwean government. You’re angry, you’re emotional; you just pick a banner without thinking about it. And sometimes it is people like that who are now saying you know what, I can’t go back home and that is perfectly understandable.

Forgotten country

"Unfortunately people in the West tend to forget the situation in Zimbabwe. It’s like when an earthquake happens and its big news, but people don’t know that it’s only afterwards when the quantification of the damage and the clean up process begins that the people's misery actually starts.

"After the violence of the 2000 and 2008 elections most people thought things would get better on their own or at least after the inception of the largely meaningless Government of National Unity GNU. But things have never got better politically. There is marginal economic progress but there is still hardship and people are still struggle for healthcare and the education of their children

"My mother is still there and my two sisters are their families. My mother lives in the countryside now. And in 2008 she had to run away for several months, because she was targeted. They were targeting people with children in the UK as well. To be honest I’m afraid for everybody, not just my family. Right now the violence is spontaneous. You know if you’re living in Baghdad, a shell might land next to you whoever you are, an aid worker, a tourist, whatever. At the moment Zimbabwe is gearing up to become a war zone with the impending elections and the threats of violence from ZANU PF officials must never be ignored as these have been carried through before.

"I never, ever imagined I’d be here this long. I packed my suitcase and said well I’ll just go to study. I thought I’d get a better qualification and then go back and help develop my country. I never thought things would deteriorate the way they did. My son was born here, he’s now nine years old. He wants to go home but at the moment we have to tell him it’s not possible…

"The challenges refugees are facing now are very different from what they were in 1951, when the Refugee Convention was created. But being able to access protection is still very important. I may be OK but I am just one person. There are millions of people back in Zimbabwe and other parts of Africa who still need protection and help.

"My proposition for Africa in the long term is a complete departure from our current systems of government that create tension leading to people fleeing their countries. That is why I am now lobbying for good governance in Africa, governing for the people not against the people"

Learn more  

Vist the the Africa Good Governance Lobby Group website

Visit the Radio Kilimanjaro website