Dear KANERE readers and prospective supporters,
We here at Kakuma and its environs are experiencing very hot, dry weather with plenty of dust storms at the moment. The number of refugees in Kakuma grows everyday. The security situation, however, is not adjusted for these numbers and has been deteriorating. The relationship between refugees and the host community population continues to be unstable. It was sad that there were no new publications from KANERE since last year, but we hope that this edition will be more comprehensive and will cover more aspects of camp life.
To reduce the risk of crime inside the camp proper security measures are required. The security situation in Turkana County, along the international boarders with South Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia has been reported to be calm. In the fall of 2011, however, security alertness was enhanced for humanitarian operations in camps like the Daadab Complex following the ongoing efforts of the Kenya Defense Forces in Somalia against Al–Shabaab. At Kakuma, there was no alarming security threat though alertness was enhanced in the compounds and along the Kakuma airstrip.
Several cattle raids have been reported among Turkana and Pokot herders who are from Turkana East and South Districts. Jie and Topozas cattle raiders from Uganda remain hostile to Turkana. These situations escalate over scarce pasture and water due to a long dry season. The main highway through the North western corridor from Kitale – Lodwar – Kakuma – Lokichokio has also experienced incidents and confrontations with bandits; however the UN and NGOs staff at Kakuma are accustomed to use armed police escorts on this highway.
I want to note my sincere appreciation for KANERE journalists who have tirelessly worked on this edition entirely on a voluntary basis. It is not easy running a newspaper without funding. We want to also thank the KANERE community here and abroad for their legal and moral support of our work. We need this support so that publication can continue on a bimonthly basis. This issue will cover different developments that have happened in the camp since last November. Though this publication has been delayed, we hope our readers will find it useful and worthwhile coverage.
The new camp address initiative has been welcomed by camp residents. Shelter inadequacies have been a serious problem in the camp leading not only to congestion but also to the tragic death of a child upon the collapse of a house. A murder occurred and violent robberies have terrorized residents of the camp. For Rwandans the refugee ‘cessation clause’ seems like a death penalty. Many efforts were made to postpone the previous UNHCR deadline for revoking refugee status from already recognized persons or group. The new Camp Constitution and election procedures have divided public opinion in the camp.
Refugee encampment and warehousing policies have ‘highly politicized meaning’ that drive donors to give aid to ensure and sustain the survival of innocent victims of violent power struggles. The warehousing situation has distorted refugee understanding of how they are forced to migrate from they home to arrive in situations of harm, humiliation, degradation and abuse in various camp settlements around the world. More than 100 refugees were arrested and questioned last December over the explosion at the Ifo Refugee Camp in Dadaab complex. This created waves of insecurity in refugee camps across the country where movement of refugees out of the camps has been severely restricted.
Camps should provide better protection. Refugees should not be overlooked. Educated and talented refugees who were once civil servants, refugee activists and exiled journalists are not allowed to exercise their talents in their host countries. KANERE urges that refugees in Kenyan camps and around the globe be given dignified recognition of ‘full’ not just ‘basic’ human rights. They deserve to be treated professionally. The 1951 Refugee Convection states the ‘basic’ rights which have become fundamental, such as the ‘refugee’ definition and their right to ‘non-refoulement’. Refugees should not merely be warehoused in camps, sheltered and fed on 3gms of cereals per day. They are productive citizens of the world. The UN and world leaders should recognize the contributions of noble men and women who were once refugees like Albert Einstein and Madeleine Albright.
We hope you will enjoy reading this KANERE issue. We welcome your lively comments, contributions and questions. You can write to us at: email@example.com
KANERE Editor in Chief,
“No one assisted me when I fled, likewise when Rwanda is safe for me; I may not need UNHCR assistance to go back.”
- J. Clare, Rwandan Female Refugee/ “The Rwandan Refugee Cessation Clause”
“Our security is bad; I don’t know why they killed my brother. We can’t live here like this every day after Dadaab camps.”
- Ahmed .M., Brother of the Victim/ “Murder at Kakuma2”
“They woke me up, then one of them put a gun near my neck and told me to choose death or produce money.”
- Sija, Ethiopian Male Survivor/ “Violent Robbery in Kakuma1”
“The security situation is fine, police patrols are on 24 hours and local refugee guards are also in liaisons with security agencies.”
- A.C., Anonymous Security Official / “Murder at Kakuma2”
“The bus was speeding and overloaded at the time of the accident, that was what I can recall.”
- Tura, Ethiopian Refugee/ “Tragic Accident”
“He slapped me and pinned me down on the floor. I couldn’t allow him to… I’d prefer to die than to be raped before the eyes of my own brother.”
- Mita, Ethiopian Female Survivor/ “Violent Robbery in Kakuma1”
“He has no mercy; he used to beat people like dogs at food distribution centers. We know him for bad things, now he has caused problems for our people.”
- David, Sudanese Group Leader in Zone2/ “Late-Night Brawl sends Infamous Police Officer to Hospital”
“There have been delays in the entire process, but new leadership camp elections are expected by March 2012.”
- Mohamed, Somali Electoral Committee Member / “Refugee Camp Election”
“I asked the police to explain what crimes were committed by my daughter. She was locked in for 8 days. But I was not informed of anything. The police officer told me to go and pay the fine for her release but I didn’t have money that week.”
- Hoden, Parent of Saira/ “Late-Night Brawl sends Infamous Police Officer to Hospital”
“It is written on paper, but how practical will it be? Let’s see what happens.”
- Marx, Primary School Teacher at Kakuma2/ “Refugee Camp Election”
“We should be consulted. We are human beings, what good do you think you do for refugees when we don’t see you doing it the right way?”
- Anonymous Refugee Shop Owner/ “Camp Planning and New Addressing System”
“I had no control, I breastfed my baby before the house collapsed. The quick sleep overtook the baby and her elder sister who was also in the house due to the hot sun outside. I was frightened by the sudden collapse.”
- Mother of the late Niyomuremyi Blandine / “Collapsed Shelter Kills Infant, Injures Another”
“I was shocked to hear my children drowned a short time after having lunch together. I could not believe it when I found them already dead!”
- Sara, Mother of the Drowned Children/ “Two Refugee Children Die in Seasonal River in Kakuma”
“Exile is a different world. We’re merely alive and only better than death. We are not living normal life.”
- Elias Lemma, Ethiopian KANERE Journalist in Exile / “World Journalists meet at CPJ International Conference”
The International Protection Regime Fails to Protect Rwandan Refugees
Rwanda has a long history of ethnically based discrimination politics with a clear hand of support of international community. In 1959, the people’s revolution received assistance from the Belgian colonial power when the country’s overall leadership shifted from the King – who could only come from Tutsi families – to the first president, a Hutu. At that point, the first episode of an influx of Tutsi refugees and a handful of Hutus began in neighboring countries. Tutsis experienced considerable power loss while the Hutus enjoyed what seemed like a right-based leadership. The Tutsis gathered all possible sources of support to regain power. Three decades later this group of refugees assisted by the United Nations Mission in Rwanda (UNMIR) and nations surrounding Rwanda managed to reinstate Tutsis to power. This time it was not as kings due to the Arusha agreement of Power Sharing, which did not support monarchy. Rwanda had also been a democratic republic since the early 1960s.
Sadly, it became a vicious cycle of refugee crisis. Unlike the former regime, the current Kigali government that came into power in 1994, when hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens were murdered, tortured, and raped facing all kinds of atrocities committed by both parties. This led thousands of Rwandan Hutus and a few Tutsis to flee to seek refuge in neighboring countries and elsewhere. Many refugees still flee Rwanda due to the regime intolerance of political differences. Today, these refugees come from different ethnic backgrounds and provinces of the country.
The Cessation Clause, a Failure to Protect Rwandan Refugees
The clause in the1951 Convention indicates certain clearly defined circumstances in which the refugee status can be cancelled or revoked. Article 1C, sub-paragraph 1 to 4 states that one of these circumstances is the time when a refugee becomes re-established in his or her country of origin. Rwandan refugees in the 1996 case did not meet this criteria; instead, they were surrounded by Tanzanian, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burundian army heavy tanks and helicopters flying over their camps and those who tried to flee deep in the forest were killed, returned, raped and seriously abused by the deployed armies tasked to repatriate them.
Under article 1C (5) and (6), the Convention is very clear that there have to be fundamental changes and the circumstances in connection to those on the basis of which the refugees had been initially recognized have ceased to exist. In the Rwandan refugee case, the circumstances have not ceased. Indeed, they have gradually deterioratd. Today there those who flee Rwanda due to increasing instability, ethnic strife, arbitrary judicial procedures, indiscriminate retaliation, political violence, intolerance of dissent, impunity and the lack of accountability that has ensued since the genocide. The Rwandan government continues to oppress its own people. There are documented cases of killings, torture, disappearings, and arbitrary arrests. There is no plurality of political parties and a lack of freedom of expression without which there can be no open democratic society.
This government has reached beyond its borders, with many Rwandan refugees in neighboring countries reporting attempted murders and or the unfortunate murders of family members and friends perpetrated by the Rwandan government. Seth Sendashonga was assassinated in May 1998. Two children were butchered inside a Refugee accommodation center in April 2002 upon being delayed for resettlement to Australia. Rizinde was killed in Nairobi. More than three Rwandan refugees were shot in 2000 after being forcibly packed into trucks and driven to Rwanda by Rwandan forces working jointly with Ugandan comrades. General Kayumba Nyamwasa escaped deadly gunshots last year in South Africa. The Inyenyerinews editor, Charles Ingabire, was shot in Kampala, Uganda in October 2011.
Need for Resettlement
The Rwandan government has mounted pressure on UNHCR to apply this cessation clause in an attempt to end the refugee issues that have become a long-term political liability. In 2009, when the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, visited Rwanda, the government and UNHCR agreed to invoke the cessation clause in the case of Rwandan refugees by December 2011.
The Fahamu Network for social justice, a human rights organization dealing with refugees in East Africa appealed the Rwandan request citing various reasons why they feel it is premature to revoke the status of refugees. The issue of unwarranted cessation claus was raised in an October 2011 annual meeting of the UNHCR Executive Committee and of representatives of its member states. The implementation was, however, adjourned to June 2012 and then eventually June 2013. Although the decision concerns refugees who fled since 1959 to December 1998, Rwanda still continues to produce refugees. It is believed that this decision would affect about 100,000 Rwandan refugees in exile who mainly reside in Africa.
Many refugees have desperately expressed their continued need for protection. Local integration is one of the best solutions for those who are not willing to go back home for fear of the grave persecution they faced and might still face. Many survived the Rwandan army killings in the DRC forests between 1996 and 2000. They witnessed these killings and many of them bear scars from them. These refugees need to be protected internationally as they are not willing to go back to Rwanda for fear of persecution. The premature application of the cessation clause can have extremely serious consequences for refugees who need to remain in the country of asylum and who may be forced to leave illegally and henceforth may be threatened with refoulement. Rwanda needs positive change to enable refugees to enjoy the protection of their government and enough time to consolidate and demonstrate genuine national reconciliation.
What can refugees do?
Rwandan refugees have the obligation to find ways of contacting their host countries and to express their fears against being forcibly repatriated like in 1996. It is possible with the pressure of the current government to face an unconventional procedural application of the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees whereby they have the right to information and, ideally, the right to gainful employment. The Rwandan refugees should liaison with existing regional and international human rights organizations as well as with news media outlets.
One common understanding would be that refugees still be afforded protection until acceptable changes have been effected in Rwanda so that refugees will voluntarily repatriate. “No one assisted me to flee, likewise when Rwanda is safe for me; I may not need UNHCR assistant to go back,” Said a Rwandan refugee in Kakuma.
Refugee shelters destroyed to pave way to new settlement structure and blocking system.
The Kakuma refugee camp is currently under the new camp address and blocking system that falls under address level 2 according to the camp master plan. 2011 has been a busy year for the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) in regard to site planning and layout by demarcating plots for putting up new muddy, brick houses in areas abandoned by the Sudanese during repatriation. At the same time, refugee-owned shelters and shops have been demolished alongside the main road of the Camp. This has led to remarkable refugee business loss, estimated in the hundreds of thousands Kenyan Shillings.
In conjunction with the Kenyan Government Dept. for Refugee Affairs (DRA), the camp governing body has embraced the benefits of a well-planned camp layout. The year 2011 marked the active establishment and maintenance of plot recording, plot assignment and plot transfer systems. The Governing body also believes that the new address will enhance emergency response, tracing and accessibility.
Previously the camp was characterized by the administration structure and naming of groups and communities was based on nationality, tribe and clan affiliations. The move to change from the old camp address system known as Zones and Groups is welcomed by refugees.
With the new address, area of the camp known as Kakuma 1, 2 and 3 have been further sub-divided into zones and blocks. The block is the smallest refugee settlement unit and is comprised of mixed nationalities. The block has a population of between 500 – 1,000 individuals who reside in houses. Refugees said the new address is easy and much clearer for purposes of transmitting communications in camps like Kakuma. It is expected that with this new camp address service delivery will be faster. The physical development and settlement reflects the residential areas, and communal and social spaces and amenities. There are road reserves with the intention of streamlining the new settlement structure in the camps by redesigning settlement areas with sequential naming system.
However; some refugees who run businesses showed mixed feelings about the new planning process as many of them felt that this process constituted a violation. Some have told the KANERE team that they have rejected the move on decongestion despite certain areas encroaching on public roads. These refugees claim that the concerned parties have not engaged in sufficient sensitizations and information sharing in the community; rather issuing order of destruction summarily. “We should be consulted. We are human beings, what good do you think you do for refugees when we don’t see you doing it the right way?” asked a refugee shop owner at the Kakuma 1 market.
“No compensation! No consultations!” a Rwandan shop holder added. “Refugees spend a lot of years and money establishing their small shops like this, but here comes NCCK orders to destroy our shops and I wonder whether refugees have any rights to own property?” he asked.
This was a commonly shared sentiment for most refugees who talked to the journalist. On address level 2, the camp has a total of 8 zones and 94 blocks that have few posts of solar lights and sign boards. The camp residents have lost hope of seeing their street lighting. A staff member who did not want to be named confirmed to KANERE that the Environmental Development Project (EDP) won’t continue any more.
Many refugees have lived in the Camp for more than eighteen years and have come up with innovative way to provide for their family non-food items that they do not receive from agencies by establishing small shops. This is critical in terms of clothing, entertainment and sometimes food especially green vegetables and meat. ‘‘We would like to have new planning with new feeding options’’ a community leader said. “I think WFP (World Food Programme) can distribute money to refugees to avoid causing us stress,” she concluded.
In December 2010 the UN High Commissioner for Refugee in partnership with the Government Department for Refugee Affairs at Kakuma started a refugee verification exercise that aimed to count all refugees in Kakuma to issue them identification papers.
The move came after the passage of the Refugee Act of 2006 in Kenya. Refugees at Kakuma positively welcome the verification process and showing appreciation for this act of recognition on the part of the Kenyan Government that surpassed the UNHCR papers and food token cards.
The exercise is conducted few years after Sudanese refugees started their repatriation with the camp population still doubling in the last eight months to 84,000 as reported by UNHCR figures released during the Food Advisory Committee (FAC) meetings. The Kakuma camp population is already high and there are always problems with water, shelter, and firewood distribution. The government has given new land at Kalobei Village about 30km away from Kakuma to settle new arrivals with the hope that the plan will decongest the Daadab camp and relocate some of the Kakuma refugees.
A decrepit refugee shelter in Kakuma 1 collapsed suddenly after the weakened brick layers fell apart.
The house, which is located in Kakuma 1, Zone 3, Block 9, suddenly collapsed causing serious injuries to two young babies who were in the house. The incident happened on the 7th of December, 2011 at 14:30Hrs. The UNHCR and National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) were implementing a refugee shelter programme at Kakuma.
The shelters of many refugees are in bad conditions and will require urgent intervention as shelters were not made out of durable materials, requiring annual review and assessment for better housing. Refugees have been asking several questions in regard to shelter problems in the camp. “Why shouldn’t refugees be built durable shelters given that the camps have existed for decades?” asked a shelter committee member in Kakuma 1. The current shelters use temporary bricks that can easily be washed away in a single heavy downpour and flooding.
The house that measured 3x4M collapsed from behind inwards while a nine-month old baby was enjoying her sleep away from the burning sun of Turkana. The mother was outside the house washing clothes and utensils when the house slowly came down to the ground. She stated in the interview with KANERE, that she had just breastfed her younger daughter when she started falling asleep moments before the brick walls fell apart and collapsed. Another baby girl aged four and a half years was also in the house when the thatch roofed house of muddy mould bricks wall fell down. Both babies suffered several injuries while the nine-month old suffered more severe injuries and some suffocation from the bricks.
The two babies were rushed to the refugee hospital with their mother, and nine-month old was urgently referred to Kakuma Mission Hospital where treatment was provided. As the injuries sustained by the baby girl were too pervasive, she died at 22:00Hrs of the same day under treatment at Kakuma Mission hospital. The body of the child was released to the family for burial on the 8th December 2011 at the Kakuma 2 grave yard.
The family was profoundly distraught by the incident. “I had no control, I breastfed my baby before the house collapsed. The quick sleep overtook the baby and her elder sister who was also in the house due to the hot sun outside. I was frightened by the sudden collapse,” said the mother of late Niyomuremyi Blandine
In response to the incident, a few days later the shelter and filed units visited the scene. The family of the victim was provided with bricks for wall construction and roofing materials were given after a week; however the head of the family still complains that the doors of the house have still not been fixed when interviewed by KANERE.
A KANERE senior writer attended an international conference hosted by the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Rory Peck Trust in Nairobi last December.
The representatives of media organizations meet during this occasion to streamline new strategies for East African journalists in exile. The international community came together to try to help exiled journalists by looking into means of developing networking and building mechanisms which could help exiled journalists in the region.
Participants included the Committee to Protect Journalists in association with the Rory Peck Trust, media legal defense representatives, the Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma, regional East African and international human rights and free press advocates, defenders organizations, and the Refugee Free Press. The Conference was held at the Fairview Hotel from 11th – 14th Dec. 2011. The Fairview Hotel is considered to be among the best hotels in Nairobi regarding security.
There were four full days of discussions regarding assistance for East African journalists in exile. A KANERE official took part in the one-hour panel: “Sustainable Initiatives beyond Assistance.” Panelists discussed initiatives to empower exiled journalist. This panel engendered lively debate. The community of East African exiled journalist has identified different issues affecting the daily lives of journalists in exile, including: unproductive job opportunities while in exile; legal protection insecurity; and limited opportunities for sustainable livelihood. As refugees, exiled journalists in UNHCR camps are among the most affected. One Ethiopian exiled journalist at KANERE shared his experience and suffering. Elias Lemma was forced out of Ethiopia after exposing government secret scandals in the Maebel newspaper where he was Chief Editor in 2002.
Mr. Lemma worked at the Maebel, Andenet and Fikirsewa newspapers, which are based in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. He lived in a suburb of Nairobi for about five years with more than a dozen other exiled journalists from Ethiopia who have fled due to death threats. In 2007, he applied for durable solution to the Kenya Branch Office of UNHCR following attacks on Ethiopian journalists under UNHCR protection in Nairobi on September 6, 2006. UNHCR has not made any progress in his case even after he moved to Kakuma after several security problems in Nairobi. “Exile is a different world. We’re merely alive and only better than death. We are not living normal life,” said Lemma who is now 38 and the oldest exiled journalist in KANERE.
The aim of the conference was to find sustainable and cohesive solutions to the problems E. African journalists and freelancers in exile face. Exiled journalists are suffering with any right to livelihood in the region. Exiled journalists in refugee camps are in even more vulnerable situations compared to their colleagues in urban settings. It is not easy to secure job opportunities. In UNHCR refugee camps, it is a humanitarian cliché that “however a refugee is educated, whatever his/her professional background, h/she must be a member of the ‘incentive’ wage-earning class not to be contracted for salaries.”
Many exiled journalists fear insecurity, disappearances and even death while under the protection UNHCR. It is important for global journalists and diaspora media outlets to be involved in advocating and lobbying with local authorities for proper protection for journalists and for their freedom of expression according to ethical codes and principles.
Since its launch, members of the KANERE staff have been physically attacked several times and had equipment destroyed and their homes in the camp damaged. Reporters without Borders wrote to the UNHCR officials in charge of the Kakuma Camp in June 2010 asking them to provide better protection for KANERE members. As the harassment has continued, Reporters without Borders wrote a second letter to UNHCR in the mid of June 2011.
Death threats have driven many journalists into exile. And a large number of journalists have been forced to narrowly escape death from East and Horn of African. For instance, governments like that of Ethiopia have anti-terrorism laws that allow them to censure both national and international journalists like the two Swedish journalist who were recently sentenced to 11 year in prison under the terrorism law in that country.
Free press groups such as the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters without Borders often report widespread violations of Ethiopian journalists. To read more about the conference and CPJ’s work, please click on the following URL link: http://www.cpj.org/blog/2011/12/in-nairobi-plans-to-improve-aid-to-exiled-journali.php#more
Some refugees and residents in Kakuma describe the attack on a police officer with mix feelings.
An administration police officer, Satati, based in the Jabelmarra zone of the Kakuma refugee camp fell into hot distilleries waste while fighting with suspected refugees in kakuma1 zone2 block11. The officer sustained serious injuries from his chest to his toes which were submerged in hot distilleries waste on fire in a drum. He was rushed to hospital after the incident was reported to police by Wami, an incentive refugee staff.
The incident happened on Christmas Eve, 25 December 2011 at 10:45pm in the refugee camp residential blocks. According to UNHCR camp regulations, no humanitarian officials – including the police – are allowed to stay or spend the night in the camps residential area after 06:00 PM.
Early that evening, however, Satati was seen in the residential area at Jack city restaurant in block11 where he had drinks with Wami who is described to be close to the police office. Satati was not in police uniform and did not carry his gun on him. He separated with Wami at about 09:00PM. His whereabouts between 09:00PM and 10:45PM are unknown. It was reported that Satati entered into the house where Zeina, a refugee woman, was sleeping. Satati woke her up by pushing her door but when she spoke to him Satati did not respond. He entered the lady’s house with no explanation, saying to Zeina “Nyamaza,” a Kiswahili word that means “keep quite.” Zeina screamed loudly out of fear that Satati was a robber. Zeina’s brother Tae came to her rescue only to find Satati chasing Zeina outside the compound. Tae knew the police office. When he tried to ask what his mission was at that hour of the night, Satati started murmuring that he lost his way. They started exchanging harsh words and a fight broke between them. While retreating, Satati accidentally fell down in the hot distilleries drum placed on the shallow grounds in a corner of the compound where he was severely burnt.
As soon as Tae realized what had happened, he came to the rescue of the officer and removed Satati out of the burning drum. Several neighbours arrived at the scene, including Wami, and alerted the police and an ambulance that took the injured Satati to the Refugee Camp Hospital. Satati was given First Aid and was transferred to the Kakuma Mission Hospital where he was under intensive care for over three weeks.
The police visited the scene the following morning. Tae and Zeina were taken to the station where they were accompanied by block leaders. They were asked to record their statements. After being interrogated over assaulting Satati, they were told to go back to their community. Tae, the young man who fought with Satati, fled the camp to South Sudan after learning that he was wanted by police.
However some refugees who knew Satati described him assaulting refugees during the Food Distribution Rations. He was repeatedly found mistreating refugees and was perceived to have negative opinions of the refugees generally. “He has no mercy; he used to beat people like dogs at food distribution centers. We know him for bad things, now he has caused problems for our people,” said a refugee leader in zone2 speaking anonymously.
Others reported that the police officer has harassed refugees about minor things. Many who have dealings with Satati are not happy with him. Many humanitarian officials are, of course, very kind and humble despite few exceptions who misuse their power to marginalize refugees in the camps. Moreover humanitarian officials frequently come to the refugee residential area and spend time with refugees. A woman openly admitted that she illegally sells alcohol because she has no other livelihood to sustain her children as the food rations are not enough. “We sell this product because of the problems. The food rations are not enough. No money, no vegetables, we are forced to confront many challenges,” said a Lotuko woman who asked to remain anonymous.
The community feels threatened by the action of police forces. On the morning of 28 December 2011, government security officers invaded the entire community with local commanders and caused a stand-still for hours. Refugees in the zone2 blocks were assaulted by the regular and administration police forces that were sent to arrest criminals and dealers of alcohol in those blocks. In the process of looking for the criminals and sellers of illegal breweries, several refugees reported being beaten by police who were bitter and vengeful due to Satati, the injured fellow police officer.
“I was beaten inside my houses. The police searched my house without any notice. I had to be treated at the camp hospital,” said a woman in block11. “My 4 year-old child was knocked down by a soldier in my compound. She was unconscious for 2 days; she also had to be treated at the hospital,” added a parent.
According to residents, about eight police vehicles full of armed officers surrounded the blocks and started beating people and kicking any thing on their way. “There were 8 police patrol vehicles, everyone was scared… Two officers entered my house, as I stood outside perplexed,” said an NGO staff residing in block11. Community members in block 11 and 12 ran away and spent over three nights elsewhere in search of safety away from the police.
The community members have described the actions of police officers as violating community policy and their human rights. The members stated that the whole Equatoria community should not be targeted in reaction to alleged wrongdoing by one individual of the community. “If the police knew any criminality done by people who fought with the injured police man, why did they release them after the first arrest? Innocent children feels terrorized… Where are their rights?” asked an angry youth at block4. The most affected blocks are blocks 11, 12, 4, 2 and 1.
On the December 31st, women and men from the Equatoria community assembled for a peaceful demonstration at the UNHCR Sub – Office Kakuma. The community raised their grievances following police brutality and demanded an explanation for why the entire community was targeted between December 28th and December 31st in what appeared to be acts of police vengeance. A delegation of fifteen protesters, including leaders, met with a UNHCR official to address these. The UNHCR official promised the group that there would be immediate follow-up by the agency.
Seven refugees were arrested and six were taken to a Kenyan court in Lodwar in connection to the incident. Among the six were a boy attending primary school, three women and a girl attending minor school. Saira, a pupil at Angelina Julie Girls Primary School in Kakuma camp was arrested on 28 December 2011 in a shop while buying washing powder in a shop. She and the other suspects were arraigned at the Lodwar court and sentenced to fines and imprisonment. Saira was taken back to Kakuma due to her age and to not having accompanying parents. She was locked in a Kakuma police cell from Dec 28th, 2011 to January 4th, 2012. Saira was released when her parent was able to raise Ksh. 5,000 for bail. Her parent demanded to know what crimes was Saira charged with but nothing was disclosed to them. “I asked the police to explain what crimes were committed by my daughter. She was locked in for 8 days. But I was not informed of anything. The police officer told me to go and pay the fine for her release but I didn’t have money that week,” said the parent.
The six suspected refugees appeared before the Lodwar Magistrate Court on 28 December 2011 and were charged with attacking the police office as well as manufacturing and consuming illegal alcohol. The court made ruling in each case on that day. None of the accused and imprisoned refugees were able to secure legal representation to accompany them from the UNHCR protection office at Kakuma.
Nyim was charged with illegally manufacturing breweries. Nyanga a mother of five was found drinking alcohol and was arrested with her thre month-old baby girl. She was imprisoned together with the child for eight months. Her family was scheduled by UNHCR for an eligibility test. Given the absence of the head of the family, the food ration of the family of six was reduced to four which rendered the four kids vulnerable to hunger. They had instead hoped that UNHCR would act on behalf of the family to release the imprisoned baby who was with the mother in Lodwar prison.
Another woman, Ditaz, was arrested for the same incident; however she was able to defend herself without legal representation and explained that she had no connection with the police allegations. She stated that she did not know why she was arrested and brought before the court. She was washing clothes when her neighbours who were suspected of brewing ran away. The police arrested her without asking any questions. The judge found in her favor and she was released two weeks later in January 2012.
Chimy was also detained in Lodwar until she could wait for the next hearing on 2 January 2012 when she was fined Ksh 5,000.00. Fortunately her relative traveled to Lodwar and could pay the fine so that she could be released. They both traveled back to Kakuma camp on the same day.
On the material day, a UNHCR official visited the Kakuma police station to follow up on the release of the arrested six members of the Equotaria community which was not fruitful. The Head Mistress at Angelina Julie Girls Primary School went to Lodwar court to seek the release of her pupil after being notified by the parent but she discovered that Saira had already been taken back to Kakuma under police custody. Questions were raised for better understanding of the cases at hand but it was all in vain.
According to the UNHCR report, “On 29th and 31st December, a joint operation compromised of regular and administration police officers led by the local commanders raided illegal alcohol distilleries in Kakuma1 zone2 blocks 5 and 9, which are predominantly inhabited by South Sudanese of Equatoria origin.” The report added that the ‘raids’ aimed to proactively prevent criminality in the camps during the holidays. “Several drums full of illicit alcohol had contents emptied and containers destroyed. A few suspects were also arrested in connection with the manufacturing of illegal alcohol and will be arraigned in court in Lodwar during the week.”
The Equatoria community has been connected to a number of reported incidents. The group is also known by refugees and host community members for widespread distillation of local breweries. Among other problems, the Equatoria community lived in terrible shelters with the poorest the living and sanitation conditions in kakuma1. Insecurity is a serious problem especially in residential blocks where conflicts arise between the members of the host community and members of the refugee community. The police patrols seem to be able to curb many of reported crimes and to mitigate many violent incidents but not all of them.
*All the names mentioned in the article are not the real names so as to preserve anonymity.
A shocking murder occurred at Kakuma2 where a 14 year old male child of Somali refugees was killed by gun shot.
Ref: CR 823/174/2011 – The Kakuma case of the murder of Abdullahi Mohamed Abdi, a juvenile who was shot and killed by unknown persons around 10:00Pm on the night of 19th November 2011. The incident happened at Kakuma2, zone1, block13. That evening the child had supper with the rest of the family members and went to a neighbour’s home to watch the football game.
He was returning home when he was suddenly stopped by the robbers who were armed with AK 47 rifles and who shot the child on the head without asking any questions. A bullet penetrated through his head and extracted a large portion of the brain and tissue. The bullet left a large exit wound on the back of the head upon exiting. Abdullahi died on the spot at the entrance of his home.
The number of the gang was not identified, however the gunmen are suspected to be from the host community. They are thought to have intruded into residential areas after destroying the fence that borders the Kakuma2 market. The gunmen crossed the main road and went up to the house where they hid and killed the child in an ambush.
The gunmen intensified tension and scared off the family and community members by firing over ten shots randomly. None of the residents in the neighbourhood were able to leave their homes to come to thje rescue of the child. The bullet casings were found on the ground the following morning and were handed over to the police.
The family arrived in the Kakuma camp in 2008 after they were relocated by UNHCR from the Dadaab Refugee camp due to the family’s “insecurity problems.” Since the family lost a child during a time they are supposed to receive protection from UNHCR, this could prove that the family has a well founded fear of persecution as the police, UNHCR and Camp management securities have not established the motive of the murder.
According to the camp security department, the security situation in the camp is stable despite a few unpredictable incidents. “The security situation is fine, police patrols are on 24 hours and local refugee guards are also in liaisons with security agencies,” said a security official speaking to KANERE anonymously
The family members have been feeling terrorized since the murder. The elder brother of the deceased child has experienced frequent nightmares. “Our security is bad, I don’t know why they killed my brother. We can’t live here like this every day after Dadaab camps,” said the brother of the victim. The mother, a paraplegic, cannot eat or walk around without support. She has also developed high blood pressure.
Kakuma2 is located between kakuma1 and 3. The settlement was not served by any security Agency. It is situated between the HongKong police post and the Kakuma3 police post. According to Kakuma2 residents who spoke to KANERE, the General Service Unit (GSU) arrived at the scene of the murder following the gun shots, which were heard across the camp. But no local guards or any members of the community were able to come out to speak with the GSU soldiers and so they were not provided with information about the murder. The local guards were unable to transmit communications to the police and to UNHCR because their radio hand sets were running on poor batteries.
The body of the child laid in the same spot until dawn when the family and residents woke up to find brain debris splashed on the ground and the body soaked in blood. The atmosphere was gloomy as the whole community mourned the untimely death of the child. The police transferred the body to the Kakuma Refugee Hospital.
The residents of block13 were outraged over rampant insecurity at Kakuma2. “We can’t sleep at night, children are crying. Some nights, there is no police patrol. We are in fear,” said Amina, a Somali woman. The residents have closed the main highway that connects Kakuma 1 and Kakuma 3 through HongKong because the residents believe the road connected many small pathways which facilitated crime.
The family of the deceased child and two other families also vacated their homes. According to the police, the motive of the killing has not yet been established and the case is still pending investigation.
Three male and two female Ethiopian refugees in kakuma1 zone1 block11 barely escape death at gunpoint; robbers attempt to rape one of the females.
On the 18th night of January 2012 at 03:00am, a gang of five unknown men armed with AK 47 rifles broke into the shop that is attached to the family home of Sija, a 20 year old Ethiopian male refugee. The men are suspected to be from the host community. They robbed the house and attempted to rape one of the female relatives.
The robbers destroyed the fence of Clinic 4 and broke another smaller gate before reaching the community. They also broke the third gate before accessing the family compound. One of the family members was sleeping outside the house and was woken up by whispers. He was then tied with rope to a tree. Upon hearing unfamiliar murmers outside the house, Sija opened the door to the house where four relatives were sleeping only to be ordered at gunpoint “to lie down.” “I was shocked by the strange reality, I was ordered to lie down at gunpoint,” said Sija Immediately, three armed men forced themselves into the house and ordered. “No one move; all of you lie down.”
They searched the house and took valuable items: a Television, two DVD players, two Amplifiers, a solar panel, a box of 1.5V batteries, an inventor and some household utensils from the kitchen. The robbers asked for mobile phones and cash. “They woke me up, then one of them put a gun near my neck and told me to choose death or produce money,” added Sija
Sija suspects that the men must have known him and his house very well. They probably knew that the victim had the amount of money in the house. Despite the community being well fenced and gated, the gang knew all the routes.
The robbers then attempted to rape the youngest female, a 15 year-old with fresh wounds from her month old caesarian birth. She talked to reporters in tears. After she was taken to the corner of the room, she struggled to resist an older man in his 30s. “He slapped me and pinned me down on the floor. I couldn’t allow him to… I’d prefer to die than to be raped before the eyes of my own brother,” said Mita.
The two male relatives who were lying down at gunpoint roared in an agony and pleaded not to have their female partners raped while they were alive. The men and Mita were beaten and sustained severe injuries. The rape was not successful.
After about an hour and a half, the robbers left the family compound. They packed everything and escaped through the same route. No gun shot was heard at the scene of the incident.
After the armed men had gone, the family were alarmed. The local guards and members of the community responded quickly. The police officers were alerted, and they visited the scene and found that the suspects had long disappeared.
However, with the help of the police, the trail that was disappearing towards the nearby village was followed together with about 20 people from the Ethiopian community. At about 05:15am, five suspected persons from the host community were arrested by the police in Natir1 village following the trekking of their foot steps and bicycles tires that lead into their homestead.
Early that morning, all the victims were able to record their statement with police. Among the five victims, only the minor girl of 15 was able to secure protection from UNHCR despite the claim of fear by the rest of the family. “We’ve gone everywhere. We’ve not got any protection assistance. We’ are in fear both day and night,” reported a family member.
The victims still complain of threats from individuals in the host community and fear that their case is being neglected. They do not understand why the security departments have failed to restore the lost property. According to a police statement, the case is still pending investigation though the suspects were released.
On the 11th of January 2012 at about 02:00hours in Kakuma1 zone1 block10, a gang armed with an AK 47 rifle invaded a hotel attached to a homestead of a 32 year-old female refugee in the Ethiopian community. The culprits accessed her compound after destroying the fence of Clinic 4 and proceeded to the house/hotel on breaking the main door. She reported that they stole a laptop, three Cameras, six mobile phones, clothes and Ksh 280,000 in cash. The robbers shot in the air while they were escaping. The victim complained to have sustained minor injuries. The case was reported to the police who visited the scene.
Additionally, several cases of robberies, murders, thefts and assaults have been occurring across the camp. While a majority of such cases get reported to authorities some do go unreported. When crimes are repored, residents complain of inadequate follow-ups and weak security monitoring.
Over the past year, the relations between the host community and refugee population have improved but lately violent incidents have increased despite more police patrol vehicles and police posts being established in the camp settlement.
“I was shocked to hear my children drowned a short time after having lunch together. I could not believe it when I found them already dead!
A refugee family from the Great Lakes lost their 12- and 15-year old boys in a pool of water a few days after torrential rain caused damage to the refugee population. According to the family, the two boys had their lunch on the 27th of December, 2011 at about 15:45Hrs and then went to play together with neighbours from the same block. “I was shocked to hear my children were drowned,” said the mother of the children. “We had lunch together and I could not believe my ears but only to find them already dead,” she added.
The incident happened at 16:00Hrs at the Nabek seasonal river where activities like brick making and watering vegetables take place before it dries up. The two boys were from the Burundian community of Kakuma 1, Zone 4, Block 1. Eye witnesses say that perhaps they went to the deepest area of the stagnant pool and then were submerged under water because none of them knew how to swim. The elder went to the deepest point of the pool, so his younger brother went to rescue him but tragically drowned in the process. “I saw many children swimming and a moment later one was drowning. I started shouting, and there was no body around except the helpless young boys who surrounded me…,” said Alex, a class 4 pupil in the camp primary school. Community members responded to the scene but they found that the two brothers were already dead in the water. The incident was reported both to the UNHCR and LWF Camp security and to the Kenya police. The UNHCR field and security staff visited the scene and the affected family. The corpses were removed and taken to the refugee camp hospital mortuary. The bodies were released to the family for burial on the 28th of December, 2011.
Several reports have indicated that rains in the mountainous area that surrounds the camp and some from Ugandan side always cause seasonal flooding in the camp, and from time to time individuals have lost their lives. Two years ago a Kakuma Mission Hospital vehicle was waterlogged at Kalobei village killing a nun and two medical personnel one of whom served at the IRC Camp Hospital. In November 2011, Hassan Sade , a 19 -year old Somali male refugee, went missing after three days of flooding in Kakuma 1, Zone 2, Block 10. Relatives reported that Hassan developed mental illness in Kakuma. Two days later his swollen body was found submerged in the sandy flow of the river about 20km away from the Kakuma Camp Lokichogio road.
Security measures have been taken, and all humanitarian agencies have been advised not to travel or drive through the flooded river inside or outside the camp. KANERE urges refugees in the Camp not to swim or leave their children unattended in the hazardous areas.
Kakuma Refugee Camp redrawn under the new constitution that will be adopted from January 2012
The blocking system enhances camp leadership, governance and community participation following the new camp addressing system that was implemented in 2011. Kakuma Refugee Camp has been redrawn in accordance with the new rules that are believed to shape the camp life and intercommunity integration for the better through new measures such as regular elections.
Over 150 candidates filed their applications with the office of the Lutheran World Federation – Peace Building and Community Resolution Unit where they eagerly waited their names to be short listed.
Even though the camp constitution was aimed to institutionalize the rules of encampment policy, democracy, human rights and freedom, the first two drafts were firmly rejected by community leaders. The final draft was approved in Fall 2011. Its approval came after several consultation meetings and intense lobbying by the camp governing authority with community leaders. Many camp residents still maintain that the constitution fails to address the warehousing situation. It has, for instance, not explained why refugees are warehoused in camps for decades with no options for settlement or integration in the host communities even after such a long time.
Community leaders and residents have expressed mixed feelings toward the constitution. The majority of the camp residents are illiterate and would need a longer time to understand the contents of the constitution. “I have only heard the new constitution, and that there will be elections. Don’t I have the right to know and give my consent?” asked a leader of a women’s support group at Kakuma 3.
According to Article 2 of the2011 constitution of the Kakuma Refugee Camp, its objectives are to strengthen the self-management of the refugee community and to generally ensure that the welfare, wellbeing and the rights of refugees at the camp are protected. Incentive staff, including school teachers, who have read the constitution, stated that the new constitutional system will create a better change in the community although they acknowledge that there are some considerable gaps. “It is written on paper but how practical will it be? Let’s see what happens,” said a primary school teacher at Kakuma 2.
Refugee leaders differ on several issues relating to the constitution. Many leaders have complained that there wasn’t enough information released in the community on the creation of new rules. Other leaders described it as a way to enhance a system that aims to constrain and control the camp environment. “In our community there is no problem, we have understood the new constitution. It’s fine though the old leaders are not happy; we are ready and waiting for election time,” said a Somali leader at kakuma1 Zone1 Block8.
Minor conflicts have been reported in a few blocks which lack physical demarcations that separate one block from the other. Due to this, UNHCR has not announced the date of the election. No campaigning has been authorized to take place in the community until short listed candidates are notified to do so. Campaigning is expected to last for a limited number of weeks.
Several community leaders have held secret meeting at evenings to plan for the elections especially that of the camp governor, a very competitive position created for the first time ever in Kakuma camp.
Camp Management Committees
The new Kakuma Refugee Camp constitution has created numerous committees within different areas of the camp settlement. There are three levels of management: There will be 94 block management committees, 8 zonal management committees and 2 Camp management committees. Block residents shall appoint members of the electoral committee for the block management committees. There are 94 registered blocks in the camp and each block will have a block management committee.
The Block Management Committee is comprised of sectoral committees on Shelter and Infrastructure, Health and Nutrition, Food and Firewood, the Environment, Peace and Security, Education and Youth, Gender Support, Children, and Persons living with disabilities.
The Zonal Management Committee is comprised of the zonal chairperson, zonal vice chairperson, zonal security, zonal interpreters and zonal sectoral committees. Each zone shall have a zonal management committee which shall be composed of two block leaders of both genders from each block within a particular zone. The members shall elect a chairperson, vice-chairperson of both gender and a secretary. Any block leader elected as chairperson and vice-chairperson shall cease being a block leader and a by-election shall be held at the block level.
The Camp Management Committee is comprised of the Camp Governor, the Camp vice Governor and the Camp Secretary. There will be an overall camp management committee which will include the camp governor and vice camp governor of each zonal management committee and a representative of persons living with disabilities.
The election process will be conducted without discrimination based on nationality, ethnicity, religion or sex. It will be based on the capacity and willingness of the candidates. All elections shall be carried out by secret ballot as indicated in the constitution. According to Article 7 of the 2011 Constitution, after the campaigning period, the process of elections will be witnessed by a taskforce including representatives from the Kenyan Department for Refugee Affairs, the Lutheran World Federation and UNHCR as well as any other appointed agency.
In what will be the old Kakuma refugee camp, the leaders will be elected based on blocks, zones, and areas. “There have been delays in the entire process, but new leadership camp elections are expected by March 2012,” Said an an electoral committee member.
Electoral Committees have been established in each block and shall act as independent bodies in charge of organizing elections for block leaders and of overseeing the appointments of sectoral committees members. Among its core functions; the electoral committee of the block management committee shall oversee campaigns, provide ballot boxes and assist in counting votes. Tallying and the announcement of results will be done at the polling stations. The committee will declare the successful candidates with the election taskforce.
The constitution gives more power to the camp governor by establishing wide committees. Refugees worry that this power might be used by authorities to control and limit the decision-making that affect the well-being of camp residents in daily life.
The Term of Office
Article 8 clarifies that elected officials shall serve two years and can be re-elected for another term. Upon the expiry of two terms they are barred from re-election.
Article 3 states that any person registered with the government of Kenya and UNHCR and who resides at the Kakuma Refugee Camp is bound by the Constitution.
To read more about the camp constitution, we ask KANERE readers to check on the views and opinions of refugee leaders on the Community Talking Point.
KANERE talks to community leaders about their diverse perspectives on the New Camp Constitution and Election.
“The community has welcomed the idea of a new Camp Constitution. Tribalism and religious interest do not constitute a good match with the current constitutional system. We need change in leadership from the community to the camp levels. It is important that people be liberated from the chain of ethnicity. “
- Ugandan Community Leader
“I want to welcome the new constitution. This is a new kind of structure that we never had before in this camp. Every block will have ten block representatives who will work in cooperation. I also hope that this will be the time that youth will have a chance to participate in leadership and governance to reform our society. “
- F. Said, Overall Somali Youth Leader at Kakuma Camp.
“I strongly oppose the new rules of the camp. It’s a dictatorial regime that imposed on the minority the will of the majority. In my view, the camp should be governed by the laws of the country not new rules of its kind. That is why the Constitution will have a negative impact. Knowledge and knowing one’s rights is what can make us intelligent.”
- Anonymous UNHCR Refugee Interpreter
“A power shift will not be realistic, I think. This may not be true but elected leaders can be controlled like puppets. A true governor should have decision-making power over anything which affects the community negatively or positively.”
- A. Thomas, Kakuma 2 Primary School Teacher
“There is a bureaucratic interest in this structure. This is not a well-defined constitution. Politics will take over within the communities. In this context, I would also wish to know what the law states in the Bill of Rights regarding refugee protection, which is a civil and political right in any democratic governance.”
- Ethiopian KANERE Writer
“Kakuma leadership should be changed. The camp has existed for over 21 years and it comprises many nationalities from all over Africa. We need to have a centralized leadership.”
- Multinational Community Leader, Kakuma 3
“I oppose this Constitution. It will not be easy to manage refugees of different nationalities, languages, diverse cultures and religious affiliations under one administration. This will increase conflict over scarce resources like water. In my opinion it’s more important for UNHCR to give proper attention to refugee voices in the camp.”
- Ethiopian Community Leader, Kakuma1
“The new idea is not bad, but my concern is about the implementation of the Constitution. This is going to create a unit where opportunities can be shared equally. I feel that the existence of many community leaders has expanded corruption and discrimination.”
- Ethiopian, Ogaden Community Leader.
“I support the new camp Constitution. I have read it. I was a member of the drafting committee that established the Constitution in 2011. This system can provide people with rights over and access to service deliveries. There was too much confusion in the past. When the time comes we want to elect a leader who is just, equal, educated and capable to lead the camp as one!”
- Somali Community Leader and a Contester at Kakuma1 Zone1 Block8
“I am for both new leadership and the new Constitution. It’s based on blocks which can help to identify the most vulnerable members in each community. The election will be highly competitive among contesters who are already aware of possible compensation for their service. In the past, community leaders have not been compensated for all the work they do as their position has been on a voluntary basis. That gave fodder to abuse and violations.”
- B. Wechtour, Secretary to Ethiopian Nuer Community.
“I am opposing this Constitution as it is favoring a particular national majority. I think refugees should stay without an overall leader. I want to suggest that the local administration blocks should remain as governing blocks in refugee communities because they will not have the power to decide anything.”
- C. Atem, Kakuma1 Hongkong Area
“I am for the camp Constitution as it can promote togetherness, peaceful co-existence and human rights. These new rules can lead refugees at Kakuma to govern themselves and their community as one large society guided by refugee fraternity. I only hope that the election will be free and fair.”
- P. Nhial, Sudanese Community Leader, Kakuma1
“I oppose the constitution. Not even 1% of the camp population is aware about this idea so it should be pushed to 2013. These are the rules of one person, one pen and one chair. Refugees are vulnerable. Oppression, corruption and bribes will increase under the regime of one governor. People do not have proper knowledge of this constitution as a large portion of th population is illiterate. That is why the rule-makers are taking advantage of our vulnerability.”
- S. Bashir, Somali Darod Community Leader
“I simply oppose it. We should call off this election. The Community must think critically about the current Constitution before undertaking this election. Multinational difference is not easy to overcome in overnight. I suggest that communities remain under the previous leadership and community governance.”
- Gabriel, Sudanese Youth Leader in Kakuma1
“I am against the Constitution and the election. These are two major things but have been combined together within a very short time. Why? What will be the long-term consequences after these laws are passed? People should know what is happening. They should also give their consent to stop negative effects in the future.”
- G. Mohamed, Arupe Distance Learning Student
“I don’t know what will be the outcome. There should be clear criteria for verifying candidates. People in the various blocks and zones should understand it and be able to know what is expected of them. This will be empowering for them – to know who to vote for and why.”
- Congolese Incentive Staff at NGO