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Refugee rapper Fablice Manikariza talks about changing the world

IF there was one thing Fablice Manirakiza wanted the students at Emmanuel College to take from his talk on Friday it was that they were all capable of changing the world.

It’s a philosophy Manirakiza lives as well as shares. The 23-year-old rapper fled the war-torn African nation of Burundi to find a new life in Australia and he knows from experience that anything is possible.

When he was two years old, civil war in Burundi forced his family, along with almost half the Burundian population, to flee to neighbouring Rwanda.

“We were refugees in Rwanda when Rwanda got into conflict – one of the world’s worst genocides,” Manirakiza said.

The genocide, which killed up to one million people, forced his family to return back to Burundi.

“My parents did what they could to have us back on track in life until I was eight when both parents were killed,” he said.

“I had to learn how to become my own parent, my own guardian, at the age of eight in a third world country. Being an orphan was just terrifying but I managed to stay on the right track and stayed in school because my siblings supported me by working and paying for me to stay in school.

“When I was 11 a truck full of soldiers kidnapped me to be a child soldier. After two weeks I escaped from the military.”

Manirakiza made it home by lying to a taxi driver, but life was never the same. Too scared to go back to school, he travelled to a Tanzanian refugee camp to re-unite with his sister and stayed there in terrible conditions until he was finally accepted by Australia as a refugee.

That was nine years ago. Since then, Manirakiza has learnt English, completed his high school education, started a burgeoning rap career and become leader of the Australian Burundian Community in Victoria.

He’s almost finished a uni degree, recently recorded a single with Paul Kelly, and regularly travels Australia to tell kids his story and to help them appreciate how lucky they are.

“I want everyone to understand that every one of these young people has the capability to change the world to be a better place,” he said.

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