Insecurity on the Rise in Kakuma
UNHCR offers relocation to Dadaab Camp as “protection” against armed attacks on refugees living in Kakuma. In separate incidents, a string of recent attacks has threatened refugees living in the Congolese, Multinational, Burundian, and Zone One communities.
Attack on the Congolese Community
On the nights of October 18th, gunmen attacked Congolese refugee community. The attackers’ aims were subverted when one of the Congolese community members snatched the gun—reported to be an AK-47—from an unidentified gunman. While the attacker was wrangling (unsuccessfully) to snatch back his gun, two stray bullets were fired.
The residents of Group 61 feared to return to their homes for about a week after the incident.
“What I know is that I fought the guy and overcame him. It is God who gave me the strength to do such,’’ said U.M., the community member who disarmed the attacker, during a visit with a KANERE journalist in the camp hospital on the 19th of October. U.M. sustained an injury on his forehead and was under medical care.
Community members report that police and the GSU (General Services Unit) visited Group 61 on the night of the attack, but they were not given the gun at that time. Ultimately, the gun was handed over to the Kenyan Police in the presence of Camp manager, UNHCR, LWF security officers and refugees on the following morning.
A string of recent attacks
A separate incident occurred on the night of October 24th in the Multinational Community of Kakuma Three. Gunmen shot into the air at night when they realized that refugees were trying to surround them. A Kakuma Three resident who spoke to KANERE recalls the shooting. “At first I heard a gun shot at around 10.30 pm. The shooting seemed to be in the nearby Turkana village,” the man recounted.
Earlier this fall, refugees in Zone One reported a roadblock and holdup by traditional armed men in their vicinity. Mr. A. was conned 3500 Kenya shillings in the attack. He says that he screamed for help but the attackers prevailed over the refugees and ran away.
The Burundian chairman and Rwandese community members also report that on Saturday the 26th of September, an armed attack occurred near the camp seasonal river Tarach. “A group of about 50 men, five of them armed with guns, held us hostage for half an hour. They robbed many of us of money and food from the market. When Kenyan police from Zone Three arrived, they fled shooting into the air and none of them was arrested,” the community chairman stated.
Community seeks protection
Since the violent intrusion on Group 61, members of that Congolese community have moved to neighbors’ houses for fear of more threats. They have demanded proactive protection from the UNHCR Protection Unit. Responding to this demand, Protection Unit told the refugees that they could sign a form to be relocated to Daadab Camp in Eastern Kenya.
The concerned community members were willing to be taken to Nairobi for better protection, but this solution was turned down. They were told that they could go to Nairobi, but that none of them would be assisted by UNHCR.
Victims offered few protection solutions from UNHCR
It has been noted that many shooting incidents injure or kill refugees in the camp, but the victims are not given adequate solutions for durable protection from humanitarian agencies running the camp. A pastor from the Congolese community was shot dead in July 2008. Their chairperson who was affected by the same incident was taken to Nairobi, but he is still roaming the streets of Nairobi without assistance from UNHCR.
Many refugees who seek a more secure lifestyle in the urban neighborhoods of Nairobi expect to receive some form of support from UNHCR. Instead, their proposals are turned down and the victims remain stranded in the city. Some turn to NGOs for help. Those who attempt to do so are asked to produce UNHCR mandates. Some refugees believe that this is one means by which the UNHCR influences other humanitarian actors in an attempt to discourage refugees from living outside the camp.
“I was given an appointment to meet with the Protection Officer who finally declared that they will interview us to be given UNHCR mandate. Yet I showed them documents given by Kakuma Sub-Office. I fear the man who shot me can still find me in the streets of Nairobi,” recounts M.M., a Darfurian refugee who spoke to a KANERE journalist over the phone.
A number of refugees injured by bullets have been trapped in the camp for years. They do not have the means to relocate independently to Nairobi. Some of these refugees say that certain communities in the camp are not protected by UNHCR, although their residents possess the proper mandate documents.
N.W. is Rwandan refugee who was shot in 2002. Since his attack, he has been stuck in the camp despite trying on several occasions to request a durable protection solution from the UNHCR Resettlement Office. He and his community members say that they are discriminated against in terms of resettlement as a durable protection.
“UNHR denied Rwandese profiling [a routine screening activity conducted by Resettlement Unit], and yet we are refugees from Great Lakes Communities,” says one young Rwandan refugee. “It is sad to be under UNHCR’s umbrella but to miss the privileges [that are supposed to be] directed to refugees of its concern. This is simply open discrimination.”
The UNHCR Protection Unit exists to advocate for refugee protection. As insecurity incidents continue to mount, perpetrators go free, and victims are left without viable protection solutions, refugees are beginning to wonder how effective this protection mandate really is. Refugees cannot comprehend why so many criminal incidents are met with non-response and neglect, even when the attackers repeatedly attempt to harm the victims.