WHEN Nadia Kanyange fled her home in Burundi during a devastating civil war, she had no idea what the future would hold.

Now the Green candidate for Glasgow Pollok is hoping to become an MSP in this year’s Holyrood election – and inspire others to become interested in politics.

Growing up in one of the smallest African countries, Kanyange said her childhood seemed fine, until the catastrophic events of October 1993.

That was when the first Hutu President of Burundi, Melchior Ndadaye, was assassinated by Tutsi soldiers – with revenge attacks on Tutsis sparking off long standing ethnic divisions.

The country was plunged into a devastating civil war which lasted 12 years and claimed around 300,000 lives.

Kanyange said: “We were just teenagers. It was on and off – guns and worrying as we didn’t know what was going to happen to us.

“There were no schools and just constant instability. We learned to live like that – it is not pleasant, it is not nice, you can’t predict what will happen in the future.”

By 2003 she had become increasingly concerned for her own safety.

“Life wasn’t bad economically for me – I was living well. I wasn’t starving and I had opportunities,” she said. “But it was just about the security, that really made me leave.

“I knew what could happen to me. It is difficult to explain the fear.

“Someone may say – ‘but nothing would have happened to you’, but why would I gamble with my life?

“On top of that I was pregnant and I thought I am not going to bring a child into this situation. So I thought I will do whatever it takes, like any person in their right mind would do.

“I don’t regret taking that difficult decision.”

At the age of 22, Kanyange ­travelled to the UK, initially claiming asylum in London. While she had heard of Scotland, she knew little about the country that was to become her home.

“There was a group of other asylum seekers around me who told me ‘oh my goodness, don’t go there, there are no black people’,” she said.

“But when you want safety, you have no choice. I had no power to say no I can’t go or I want to stay here. You are scared.

“I had a two-month-old baby with me. They put me in the back and I had a long, long journey going further north for at least nine hours. My poor baby was so calm, he didn’t make it difficult for the journey as he didn’t cry. We reached Glasgow and that was it.”

She was housed in a tower block in the city’s Sighthill area. Not only did she have to cope with being in a strange country and a new mother, she lived with the constant fear of ­being deported after her asylum ­application was initially rejected.

“We were all struggling, trying to figure out what was going to happen to us,” she said.

“You are lost, you are confused, I was a new mum in a foreign country, I was struggling to speak English as well. So it was a really difficult time.

“We used to be going there [Home Office] to sign, so there was no guarantee you would come back.

“You could go sign and then they would just pack you and take you to a detention centre. It didn’t happen to me but I always scared.”

In 2008 she finally received leave to remain and began working in ­hotels, shops and any job she could find.

But it was studying at college and university which eventually led to her political career.

A fellow student sent her information about a political shadowing scheme and she was linked up with SNP MSP Clare Adamson.

“It was amazing as I started travelling to the Scottish Parliament for the first time,” she said. “The person I was shadowing was Clare Adamson. She took me to Motherwell and I followed her around to see how she was doing her surgeries and how she was interacting with the communities.

“I loved it and thought I can do this. Even though I didn’t think I would be an MSP or anything – I was just interested in it.”

Kanyange was then asked by ­fellow Green candidate Kim Long to ­volunteer to help with canvassing and knocking doors and when the ­opportunity came along to stand as an MSP for the party she decided to put herself forward.

She said: “I very quickly understood the importance of representation.

“I had someone who told me ‘I have lived in the country for 22 years and I have never registered to vote. But because of you I went to register to vote’.”

When it comes to the Holyrood election, Kanyange said her main priorities are human rights and improving the lives of asylum seekers and refugees, as well as campaigning for independence and on climate issues.

She said it will be “amazing” if she does become an MSP and hopes it will particularly inspire those who can relate to her background.

“Most of the time people in ethnic minority groups don’t see themselves in certain positions,” she said,

“I want people to start engaging in politics and society – this is a place where decisions are made for our ­daily lives, so it is important.”

Taking a seat in Holyrood will be a long way from fleeing the brutality of civil war. Kanyange emphasised that no-one ever has the ambition to ­become a refugee.

She said: “You have dreams – I want to be this, I want to do that. You don’t choose that – nobody does. Never ever did I think my life would take this turn.”