Flight to Freedom


Flight to Freedom: Somali Bantu Refugees Travel from Kenya to America’s Heartland

In the 1880s Bantu tribespeople were torn from their homelands in southern Africa and shipped to Somalia as slaves. Always targets of discrimination, they disproportionately fell victims to violence when the Somali government disintegrated in 1991. Even in refugee camps they were persecuted by fellow Somalis — robbed, raped, and forced into hard labor. Repatriation attempts to their original homeland failed.

The U.S. State Department granted asylum to 15,000 Bantu Somalis, paving the way for this Muslim tribe to leave behind forever the Kenyan refugee camps where they have languished for a dozen years. With this announcement, one of the most primitive civilizations on earth prepares to assimilate into one of the most advanced.

The Bantu Somalis relocate to the U.S. throughout 2004. This package includes photos, audio, slideshow and written story as the reporter  follows the Mukomwas, a young family of four, from the barren plains of Kakuma, Kenya, to suburban Chicago.


Watch the video Somali Bantu: Flight to Freedom on Vimeo here


Osama’s Story | .mp3
Somali Bantu Refugees--UNISOM bombing survivorOsama Mussa Muganga worked for United Nations in Somalis (UNISOM) in Mogadishu during the Somali civil war. He describes an attack on the headquarters, in which he was the lone survivor. He spent years wandering Somalia, then waiting at Kakuma refugee camp. He currently lives in San Diego.

Jane’s Story | .mp3
Somali BantuJohn and Jane Stoller-Schoff hosted the Mukomwas until they found an apartment. The Americans taught the Mukomwas skills like using a modern stove, cleaning house and dressing for winter. Jane talks with her son, Johnathon Jr., about the experience.

Muridi’s Story | .mp3
n 5866_00Muridi Mchiwa Mukomwa and his family with all their possessions traveled from Kenya to Chicago in November 2003. For the first two weeks they lived with The Stoller-Schoff family, in background. Muridi was interviewed in Kenya about life he hopes to build in America.