Nearly 7,000 refugees from more than 30 countries have been resettled in Idaho in the last decade. More than a dozen of them will be sworn in as U.S. citizens Saturday as part of the World Refugee Day celebration in downtown Boise, which is sponsored by the Idaho Office for Refugees.
Benjamin Rutikanga is one of them. Rutikanga fled his home in Rwanda during the infamous genocide of the '90s. He later fled other conflict in Congo. Then he spent more than a decade in a refugee camp before being sent somewhere he’d never heard of: Boise Idaho.
Rutikanga says he's been studying for his citizenship test since coming to Boise five years ago, and he aced it.
“I want to be a citizen of the United States because I can have more rights,” Rutikanga says. “I can vote, and I can participate in campaigns and I can work for the federal government if I have abilities. I can have [the] rights all Americans have.”
He also says he wants to give back to the country that took him in.
Rutikanga says he’s proud and excited to become a U.S. citizen. He says he’s gaining a lot with citizenship, but to a certain extent he’s giving up being African.
“You don’t forget where you come from, but you become a citizen of the country, and you have to work for the country, and do everything for the country you are in,” he says. “I can visit Africa, but knowing that I’m an American citizen only.”
You can see Rutikanga and other refugees take their citizenship oaths Saturday at 11:00 a.m. in Boise’s Grove Plaza.
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