Kakuma Community Looks Back on 2008
Volume 1, Issue 2 / January 2009
Refugees in Kakuma Camp experienced many different events relating to religion, social life, politics, education, and encampment in the year 2008. These contributed to their joys or added to their sorrows.
The year began amid intense insecurity. “I think any one of us who was here won’t forget the gunshots of every night,” one refugee said. “For almost half a year, we wished for the sun not to go down” each night. The insecurity problems began in November 2007 and persisted until the GSU (General Services Unit of the Kenyan Police) were deployed in mid-2008.
In March 2008, UNHCR Representative in Nairobi visited the camp. She came to introduce herself to refugee community leaders and to assist in the search for an intensive security solution for the camp.
Other personalities who visited the camp included the Provincial Commissioner on 9 September 2008. Community leaders requested him to deploy GSU permanently in the camp.
On 2 June 2008, the UNHCR Resettlement Office began interviewing Burundian families in what they called the “Great Lakes Profile.” In the following weeks Congolese were also interviewed. The program was to last for two and a half months, but Rwandese and Ugandans were never called. Up to now, UNHCR has provided no information on profiling for other Great Lakes communities.
On 23 July 2008, the first convoy of Somalis relocated to Kakuma Camp arrived. Due to current political instability in Somalia, many Somalis cross the border to Kenya and reach Dadaab Camp. A BBC Kiswahili correspondent reported that the Daadab Camp population is currently operating at triple its capacity. This relocation is intended to solve the overpopulation of Dadaab Camp.
A relocated Somali refugee told KANERE that in Somalia they were not safe: “When you are not a supporter of Ethiopian and Somali transitional government soldiers you will be killed. On the other hand, when you are a supporter, Al Qaeda [Al Shabab] will kill you. And anybody may kill you when you don’t have a side you support.”
In October 2008, Kakuma Refugee Camp received the new UNHCR Head of Sub-Office, Mr. Mohamed Qassim.
From 9-13 November 2008, all camp children enrolled in class eight sat for their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam. More than one thousand two hundred attended the exam in 15 different testing centres throughout the camp. Three centres were devoted exclusively to girls’ testing.
On 28 December 2008, the refugee Ethiopian Orthodox community opened its new spiritual centre, the Debre-Hail Saint Gabriel Church. The church is beautifully crafted and skillfully decorated. Kakuma local believers will benefit spiritually in this church.
22 December 2008 marked the birth of KANERE, a refugee free press. “It will be our voice if it is ours and for all of us,” a refugee said. “It is our mouthpiece and can bring real, practical change,” says another refugee.
31 December 2008 was a great day of celebrations in the camp. Women, children, and elderly refugees celebrated the New Year. Drum beating and night dancing were reported to reach a climax in the Burundi and Congolese communities. Chickens were sold at 500 Ksh each, and almost every family bought one until there were no more to be found in the market.