By Awet Andemicael
Last year, I conducted research for UNHCR (available online at http://www.unhcr.org/4def858a9.html), which suggests that artistic activity often plays a powerful positive role in the lives of refugees living in camps, and can help them survive and even thrive emotionally, spiritually, and physically. (more…)
KANERE talks to camp residents on the latest hot topic: What do you think about the World Refugee Day? Their perspective constitutes diverse for public opinion.
World Refugee Day should not be celebrated because it encourages others to become refugees. Exile life is dangerous, you don’t have any rights, protection, justice or future. We are treated as object for other people’s business.
- Mutichaw Mote an Ethiopia
Refugee Day should be commemorated in a special way by giving refugees special gifts or special food ration during the distribution cycle rather than inviting them to dance, I hate that practice.
- Ingabine Rose a Congolese
My perception is sadistic on this day. We are disadvantaged or suffering people. It helps to create awareness on refugees and the role UNHCR are playing on them in relation to camp existence.
- Daniel Yol South Sudanese.
I believe Refugee Day is not for celebration but for mourning for being a refugee. It’s worst being outside one’s country.
- Ayan S. Peace facilitator with LWF
To me exile life is better than refugee life when you have external support. As I have experience, man, it’s hell in the camp, like in a prison. I don’t have rights like other Kenyans.
- Bishar H. a Burundian
UNHCR has been doing little to educate refugees on cohesive living like peaceful coexistence. I would request for more peace initiative campaigns to reduce stereotypes among communities.
- Jimmy a Sudanese – Dinka primary school teacher
Being a refugee is bad. You are deprived of most of your rights and freedom. I don’t see the purpose of music and dances to make UNHCR and NGOs pleased yet there’s no recognition in it.
- Rukunda Jean a Rwandan
This day will only cause a heartburn as I kept on bathing in salty swamp of Kakuma. When the sun goes down the camp becomes dark. I feel like I am alive in the daylight and then dead at night.
- Shamso an Ethiopian KANERE reader
I see no meaning of this day. I have lived here for 6 years with no recognition from both UNHCR and Kenya government. My desire is to go back home when peace prevail in my homeland.
- Wechtour Ethiopian Nuer leader
This day makes me feel very sad; I am a voluntary prisoner in Kakuma. I can’t move freely. I don’t see any reason for cheering the day. We should rather preach peace to prevail in the world. Everything is corrupted here, let the UNHCR think right and give us quicker durable solution.
- Elros an Ethiopian
The day reminds me of the entire bad thing I went through in Kenya. I think we are only refugees physically but not in mind and heart. Refugee process is not fair because resettlement is corrupt. Many refugees have stayed for 20 years still with no hope of being resettled.
- Lallo Osman Sudanese – Nubian
The first thing that comes in my mind is my branded name ‘refugee’. It reflects on death, injuries. Living life full of humiliation and rejections, you have no consideration despite the lies going around claims of human rights, their rights.
- Abdullahi Ahmed a Somali
I am bored of this day. I am tired of being a refugee. Lack of freedom made us to flee home. Living away from family is worst. I still hope for life though. It’s terrible life of restriction by fellow men of the world.
- Adan an Ethiopian Ogaden leader Kakuma 2
This is not a good moment in refugee life. It reminds me of bombings, killings and escape. It’s the worst thing especially when all your rights are denied while we live in Kakuma. Life is doomed.
- Fardosa Ali Kakuma 3
I arrived in Kakuma on 3rd July 1992. I feel like I have lived for 100 years in the camp. In such life, one cannot view life in other end except UNHCR. A life where one depend worse of all.
- Lueth Michael a primary school teacher in Kakuma
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
Refugees shared their views on the question of the Southern Sudan Referendum—vote for unity or break away? (more…)
What do you think of the Kenyan Government involvement in management of the camp, the security situation, decision-making bodies, and refugee feedback mechanisms? (more…)
The 2010 world refugee day celebration theme ‘They have taken away my home but they can’t take my future’ not only causes a thousand questions in the refugee minds but it gives room to opposite view of the UNHCR work in Kakuma refugee camp.
Volume 1, Issue 5-6 / May-June 2009
Comments on Distribution of Non-Food Services by NGOs in Camp.
Volume 1, Issue 5-6 / May-June 2009
From My Diary at Food Distribution Center September 19th 2007.
Volume 1, Issue 5-6 / May-June 2009
The Impact of not Having Network at the Cyber Cafe in the Camp.