Police Harassment in Kakuma 1
Police round up refugees in Kakuma 1 without notice of an imposed curfew.
The joint rounding up of refugees in Kakuma 1 started on the 26th June following some social problems that emerged between two groups of Ethiopian nationals at Kakuma 1 zone 1 block 10.
This part of the camp is largely composed of Ethiopians, mainly Oromo and Amharic speakers.
On June 25th, members of the Amharic speakers alleged that a member of the Oromo community burnt an Ethiopian flag. Members of this group supposed that the act demonstrated an unjustified complaint which remains suspicious between the two groups.
On June 26th, two people identified as Daniel, an Amharic speaker, and Robel of the Oromo tribe fought in public at block 10. This sparked further resentment and four other people fought leading to casualties after some youths joined in the battle.
The Kenya police were informed who arrived to maintained peace in the area. At least 26 Ethiopians from both tribes were arrested and spend a night in Kakuma police cell.
On June 27th, at least five people were arraigned to the Lodwar Law Courts and charged with the offences of creating violence and tensions in the community. Four Oromo speakers were released with a cash bail of Kenya shilling 50,000 each while three persons from the Amharic group paid a cash bail of Ksh 20,000 each.
KANERE interviewed both Amharic and Oromo group leaders to distinguish the root causes of the conflict. The group leaders were both committed to peaceful coexistence. “It was a simple matter but it escalated into tribal issues. More than 30 people from my community have been arrested and released,” an Ethiopian block leader said.
It was discovered that some youths had a misinterpretation of the tribal difference and related political ideologies even while in exile. “Some members of the Oromo were arrested at a Mosque after night prayer and charged at the court offensively” said an Oromo block leader.
On 27th June, the Camp security department comprising Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Peace Building, UNHCR Protection, and the Kenyan Department for Refugee Affairs had a joint meeting with the Amharic and Oromo groups where the authority issued warnings to maintain the law and order of the land.
Following the reports of insecurity made by members of the Amharic group, the Kenya police imposed curfews without proper notice to the other residents of Kakuma 1 zone 1 blocks.
The police vehicles drive within the residential blocks without lights. The residents have complained about beating and harassment as early as 8 pm every night!!
From 27 June through to August, residents have experienced police harassment and arrests including physical assault. Many refugees residing in the area were arrested unawares and detained for several days in Kakuma police cells.
“This is the business center with electricity and cafes, it’s not clear why police are beating and just arresting anyone since June,” a Sudanese Nuer leader remarked.
On 30 June, twelve people got arrested after a Muslim night prayer at around 9:15 pm and had to sleep in the police cell. The Muslim worshipers expressed sad reactions stating the victims were only leaving the Mosque when they were arrested by police on patrol.
“Police should do their work but should not arrest anyone without even consulting them, the worshippers only left the Mosque a few minutes before they got arrested,” a Sheikh at Bilal Mosque told KANERE.
An unknown number of people have been arrested including members of other nationalities who have experienced a huge police shakedown. Many of them were freed on cash bails from the police cells while others were charged at the courts.
The pattern of police harassment continues and the community feels rather threatened and that their freedom of movement within the camp is restricted.
On 5 July, another 28 people were arrested at around 8 pm. In interview with KANERE journalists at least 20 people complained about police beating. The whole group paid Ksh 2,500 per person and were freed from Kakuma police station on the following day.
On speaking with the Officer Commanding Kakuma police station, the officer stated that the police have intensified night patrols to secure all sections of the camp. “We are only maintaining peace and no one has complained about the police assault,” the OCS told Kanere.
The entrances to the Ethiopian community area are left open throughout the night as opposed to the past when the gates were closed during the night. Despite the fact that the police patrols are intensified, the refugee communities believe they are not safe at night when the gates are left unclosed.
The leaders of the two groups have asked the block members to maintain peaceful coexistence while police are asked to conduct the patrols professionally and stop harassing refugees in their residences.