Guards: Stop Exploitation and Abuse!
Guards must immediately stop sexual exploitation and abuse of refugee girls in Kakuma camp.
Compared to Dadaab complex, Kakuma has been described as calm in terms of insecurity from explosions. However, this is not reality in terms of sexual exploitation, corruption and abuse of power by those who hold accountability.
During the day, everything seems normal but when darkness prevails refugee girls are seen wearing stylish dresses and heading towards local pubs while others are seen leaving NGOs premises late in the evening while humanitarian cars including police patrols are seen in the community entrances, on the pretext of providing security at night.
According to the camp regulations, neither NGO staff nor vehicles should be found inside the community from 6pm except camp ambulance and patrol police along the corridors. Sexual exploitation and abuse inside the camp are rampant yet the fate of women and girls who are victims of sexual assaults remains untold. The difficult part in trying to curb these abuses is that victims fear repercussions for reporting the abuse to the same authority that should protect them.
However, one story of a female refugee child shows how the monopolistic system allows the abuse and sexual exploitation of camp residents by those in power. Zula (ZU) a typical Ethiopian, beautiful and slender was a pupil at Horseed primary school aged 15 when she was defiled by a member of the security personnel based at Kakuma 3.
The man in question, known to the victims only as Kex, was from the General Service Unit department of police based at the International Organization for Migration Compound in Camp 3. The police were deployed to Kakuma camp because of the increased rate of crimes and killing of refugees. According to the camp authority several murders which took place in the camp were believed to be committed by unidentified members of the host community.
ZU was born in 1995 in Ethiopia. She was brought to Kakuma Camp by her parents when she was very young. She was learning at standard six when she was led astray and defiled in the camp. Kex lacked normal African cultural respect for the family by deliberately exploiting the minor in presence of the parents when visiting the family residential block in the camp. On some occasions, Kex was demanding the child while armed, and might or might not be in police uniform while sometimes on board a police vehicle. His sexual relationship with the child has continued for years, despite the claims by UNHCR Kakuma that the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse is functional in the camp.
Despite the fact that the violation was frequently reported to the relevant camp authorities, no effort was made to bring the perpetrator to justice. Due to their fear and lack of protection, in 2011 the family changed their location from Kakuma 3 and started living at Kakuma 1. In some cases the family prevented the perpetrator from having access to the child.
On a certain occasion in late 2011, both perpetrator and child were arrested by refugee local guards because Kex came into the victim’s residential block to collect ZU for pleasure. By then, ZU received a call and left the school at Unity primary school early in the day while studying in class seven.
On reaching Kakuma police station, only the child was put in a police cell while the perpetrator was left free. She was taken to Lodwar magistrate’s court instead of the perpetrator. ZU was charged with the offences of a child in need of care and protection. C/S 119 (1) (d) of the children Act No. 8 CR 315/2011.
A few days later, the case was handled by arbitration instead of following the legal procedure as required by the said standard sexual exploitation code of conduct for the camp. The arbitration was attended by the Gender Officer and the officer commanding the police station (OCS). No better resolution was made but Kex continued exploiting the child.
KANERE approached Kakuma police station in regards to this case of exploitation but found the authority was not friendly to speak with the Kanere journalist on the subject. “We don’t give information to journalists.” Said a police official in a very intimidating way. “Are you ‘atananyeche?’… Are you a journalist?” Another police officer in speaking to Kanere.
In speaking with LWF Gender office, Kanere learnt that the minor’s case was not handled as per the standard regulation on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. However, a refugee gender staff speaking on condition of anonymity was concerned about ZU’s case. “It’s a shameful act of violation. The concerned authority should be held responsible for mishandling a case of a beneficiary under International protection.”
In Kakuma, criminal cases between a refugee and aid workers are not handled through the court procedure. In some sensitive situations the perpetrator is given another chance to continue humanitarian work in a different camp, believing that he/she will stop the habit in the new environment.
In 2012, when Kex’s term in the office at Kakuma ended, the man was deployed to Lokichogio. Secretly, the perpetrator took the child to Lokichogio police base where ZU was last seen by her relatives.
The family had followed up the case with both UNHCR and other concerned authorities but failed to get protected. The family also narrated their ordeals of receiving constant harassment and threats from the same perpetrator through phone calls. “He is coming with a gun demanding my daughter; are they here to protect us or they exploit us?” Said the victim’s mother.
In an interview with KANERE, the family complained that they lacked basic human rights. Instead of taking proper protection measures to safeguard the rights of both child and disturbed family, a UNHCR lawyer handling this case was only soothing the family to wait until ZU will turn 18 years old. Kanere has contacted UNHCR protection officials on three occasions but failed to get a clear response on the matter including email interviews. “Even if you report about this, nothing can be done to me.” Said a female G4S guard at UNHCR arrogantly blocking the entrance.
The family under the protection of UNHCR are desperately seeking the whereabouts of their daughter. It was not known if she is still alive or dead. “I have not seen my sister for two years now. Do we have a right to know if she is dead or alive?” Victim’s relative appealing to Kanere journalist.
There are similar cases in the camp which show what both ZU and other female youths in the camp are going through. Due to the lack of protection, fear of reporting or repercussions of reporting sexual exploitation cases to authorities many cases go unreported. When reports are made the victims and relatives suffer different insecurity problems and are victimized in the refugee communities.
In speaking with refugee community leaders Kanere learnt that a few particular NGOs are well known for rampant sexual exploitation and abuse. As Kanere shall work on the in depth analysis on these and similar cases of human rights violation, the paper seeks community leaders and camp residents to provide information to the only independent refugee media in Kenya.