KANERE Fills Gap in Media Access
Volume 1, Issue 1 / December 2008
News flow within and across Kakuma Refugee Camp is still extremely shoddy since the establishment of the camp in 1992. I refer to news of national interests and local as well.
Electronic media are available to refugees thanks to information and communication technologies developed by enterprising refugee businessmen. A refugee-owned cyber café has offered internet surfing facilities in the Somali Community for several years. More recently, one refugee businessman purchased a DSTV dish and established a system for individuals to subscribe to DSTV in the camp. These initiatives mark a turning point in information access for refugees in Kakuma, although their exposure remains low due to socio-economic factors inhibiting service expansion.
Radio broadcasting serves as the main source of news and information for the majority of refugees. An estimated 70-80% of refugees own a radio for use in the home. Popular radio stations include VOA (the Voice of America, available in Amharic, Oromo, and Tigre languages), the BBC (available in Kiswahili, Somali, and French languages), and KBC (the Kenya Broadcasting Channel, available in English and Kiswahili).
Personal television provides news on a much more limited scale, as it is estimated that only 5-15% of the refugee population owns a television. Of those that do, a great majority reside in Zone Five (the central area of Kakuma camp) where electricity is available for a fee from refugee owned and operated generators. The general population can enjoy DSTV news updates at a few restaurants and coffee houses throughout the camp.
Print media exposure in the camp is very pathetic. Refugees rarely get access to mainstream Kenyan newspapers. It is estimated that less than 200 copies of newspapers are supplied to the Kakuma area. According to the newspaper supplier, newspapers are sent from Nairobi to Kakuma via Lokichoggio and are meant to be sold to humanitarian workers. The assumption is that the refugee camp population cannot afford regular purchase of newspaper copies. Indeed, it is extremely rare for a refugee to obtain a copy of the paper. The few copies that do reach Kakuma arrive a day late, and people rely on backdated numbers.
The media mentioned above cover national and world news in most cases, but rarely address the specific areas of interest for those living in and around Kakuma Refugee Camp. In such a situation, a community newspaper would be appropriate to cater for the needs of refugees in regards to their own interests, issues, and concerns. Such a paper would fill a critical gap in media access and would provide a welcome platform for public discussion and debate in Kakuma.