A mother whose 15-year-old son died from a single stab wound on his way home from school has said she will always feel pain but has no time “to just sit down and cry” as she fights to stop further lives being lost.
Hawa Haragakiza, 33, vowed to campaign for change after her eldest child Tamim Ian Habimana was killed in Woolwich, south-east London, in July.
Tamim’s death is one of 29 teenage homicides in London in 2021, which surpasses the most recent high of 27 seen in 2017, and equals the previous peak of 29 teenage murders in the capital in 2008.
Ms Haragakiza said young people are left with nothing to do after school and so wander the streets, where there is generally no police protection.
She told the PA news agency: “There’s a problem with young people because they’ve got so much time on their hands.
“After school they just don’t have anything to do and they just wander the street. And on the street we don’t have police protection.”
She believes young people do not trust adults and have no fear of ending up in prison.
“They’ll go to jail, they’ll have a nice life there, they’ll come out,” Ms Haragakiza said. “How about us? We just lost our kid.
“At the end of the day I was expecting my kid to be a lawyer, I was expecting my son to be a good citizen who I can be proud of. But he’s not here.
“Those kids will get out eventually.
“No matter what they do I won’t have the result that I want, because the result that I want is to have my kid back.
“In five years or 10 years they will come out, they will have their life. But mine won’t be here.”
The mother-of-three wants tougher sentences for juvenile killers for the sake of the victim’s loved ones.
“It should be an example that these kids should go away for a long time,” she said.
“It’s not only about those kids or my child who’s gone, it’s about the ones they left behind.
“If you just do the right thing and punish them correctly then at least (their families) will feel that justice has been done.”
Speaking about Tamim’s younger brothers, who are 11 and 13, she said: “They’ve got so many questions, I don’t even know how to answer them.”
Ms Haragakiza is determined to make a change in her son’s memory.
She said: “I don’t think that I’ve got time to just sit down and cry until I’ve seen that I’ve made a change in my son’s name.
“I know who my son was, he was a good boy. The way he looked at me was reassuring me ‘Mum, I will do you proud’.
“I will always have this pain, but the way to cope with it is to do what Tamim would want, which is to make a change. I have to do whatever it takes.”
This includes campaigning for centres for young people to keep them off the street and offer positive activities, as well as pushing for tougher jail terms.
She also wants to see bereaved relatives and ex-offenders visiting schools to teach young people the human cost of knife crime.
“It’s like every single day another kid is dead, and it looks like we have to accept that’s how it is, when we shouldn’t. It is supposed to be a free country but also a safe country,” Ms Haragakiza said.