Child Protection Cases and Aftermath for Victims
The sorrow of child abuse is compounded in Kakuma by difficult court cases and community aftermath for victims’ families.
Hussein Mohamed* and Ashuke Sara* are from the Darot tribe of Somalia and were married in 2000 in Mogadishu and had two children together: a daughter Amina* and a son Hassan*. Amina was left in Somalia during the war and her parents don’t know whether their daughter is still alive or dead. The family arrived in Kakuma Refugee Camp in 2009 during the Daadab Relocation Excercise by UNHCR.
Hassan Hussein, an 8-year-old boy, was their only child. They brought him up with all their care and love despite the hardships of the refugee life situation. So to learn that their son was abused was a terrorizing experience for the family. In an interview with a KANERE journalist, Ashuke, the mother of Hassan, narrated the abuse of her child and the aftermath of the court case in their community.
“We fled and first became refugees in Daadab Camp, and we were later relocated to Kakuma Refugee Camp in January 2009 and got housed at Kakuma Four.
“As an intelligent young boy, my son had an inspiration of teaching the Quran to other Muslim children, and so he attended Madrassa (Islamic school) in the community.” The madrassa was not too far from their family’s house.
In March 2009, Hassan encountered a man while he was coming home from Madrasa. The man asked Hassan to come along with him from the main refugee street, stating that he will welcome the child with a cup of tea and some sweet snacks at his home.
Innocently, the kid walked into the house with him. After eating the snacks, the man asked if the kid wanted to see some pictures and toys he had in his house. As they were seating on the bed he started touching him and after some time abused Hassan.
Hassan’s mother was in tears as she narrated this scenario to KANERE.
“That evening Hassan came home late and did not mention anything to me and his father. The following day after Madrassa the man waited for Hassan along the street. Although the kid insisted against it, he took the boy home again and the same pattern continued for almost a week unnoticed.
“When my child started coming home late from Madrassa, I just thought he might have interesting moments with his junior friends of the neighbourhood and suspected nothing. One night, the child was restless and frequently woke up from asleep, he later screamed. I went to his bed and he was complaining of abdominal pain and around the anus.
“Immediately the following morning I took him to IRC clinic and later to the IRC Main Hospital where he was examined. I was surprised when the doctor came back to me with many questions regarding: when the child got sick, who his friends are, where his father is and so on. I was not astonished but flabbergasted with the news piercing my ears of my child was sodomized. I could not believe it. I couldn’t hold my tears.
“We were given a medical report and referred to Kenya Police who arrested the man immediately. The perpetrator was detained for two weeks and released on free bail bond. The man was imprisoned but I believe he paid and got freed because he is from a rich family. We could not believe when we saw him passing by my house so proudly. My son never thought to see him again, neither did any of the family members. The court case continued at Kakuma for about nine months and was withdrawn… I was not even informed of how things went and how the case was dismissed.”
According to a Lutheran World Federation (LWF) child protection official, the number of reported cases in general has been reduced in camp communities. In 2009 the first case of child abuse of this nature was in March. Since then, the second and third cases came in last May and the most recent case was in August 2010. “We have done our part to assist victims of the violence to get legal protection…but I think there must be a gap somewhere,” he stated. He could not say how cases stood with UNHCR Legal Protection Unit after sending case referrals to those offices.
Since the entire case was known to the community, the family believes that justice was not fairly done. The family also faces domestically casualties, as they claim that the information circulated and everybody thinks they made the case themselves. Some said it was a cultural norms issue not to speak out: “We could find our jerrycans kicked off from the water taps, stones thrown at us frequently, and so we even don’t sleep in our house some of the nights due to too much fear and frustrations,” said Ashuke.
In an interview with KANERE, Mr. Alfred of LWF Community Services stated that the family should report back to his office if they were not contented with the legal proceedings at the court. “It’s beyond us now. I think we should know the basics of the case, but LWF is just a referring agency,” he adds.
The child no longer goes to school or Madrassa. “He used to stay at our relatives’ house where he could find other children to play and interact with, but he cannot go outside and used to experience nightmares. Even last night I was woken up when he was jumping and crying in the bed,” said the father of the boy.
“After 20 days in a police cell the perpetrator was released on free bail bond. We accompanied the client to the court on April 20, 2009 for a hearing. The court stated that the case was lacking evidence and was finally withdrawn on May 28, 2010. They even tried to appeal but no action was taken, they still feel threatened whenever,” stated an official from LWF Gender Equity and Human Rights Office.
*Not real names!