Kakuma News Reflector – A Refugee Free Press

Violent Robbery Interrupts Peace in Kakuma One

By KANERE News Desk, July 2019

At least three refugees sustained gunshot wounds while property of unknown value was stolen by armed night-time attackers 

The incident was recorded on the night of July 7, 2019 at around 12:30am, when unidentified men armed with guns broke into a family’s house in Kakuma One (Zone 1, Block 4). The attackers damaged the outer fence upon entering. They looted the home, taking objects like bags of clothes, TV sets, food rations and mobile phones at gun point. During the event, they also shot a neighbor who arrived at the scene after they heard the chaos from within the targeted house.

“I heard the scream of a woman coming from my neighbor’s house, but when I reached their gate, l was shot in my right leg and fell down,” explained the neighbor Simon to a KANERE journalist

Simon describes the incident as horrific. “I saw a few of the attackers in the darkness. It was horrible to witness them forcing a lady at the house to pack her belongings for them.”

Two days later, on July 9, a similar attack was carried out by unidentified armed men who looted the home of a family living in the same block. A refugee woman identified as Halis was shot on her right shoulder, and when the bullet exited her back, it injured her child on the right ear, slightly missing his head. This incident happened at around 3:00am but victims did not receive any first aid until they were transported to the camp clinic an hour later. “I thought I will die from heavy bleeding,” Halis explained. “I was asking myself, what have I done to deserve such punishment?”

Halis is from Somalia and has lived in Kakuma for many years. She expressed concern her son has been traumatized from the gunshots. “He (her son) is recovering, but he looks paralyzed and did not talk for some days. We live in fear.” While concerned for her family’s safety, Halis has no option but to continue living in fear every day.

Following the attacks on July 7th and 9th, angry residents of Kakuma One – mainly youth from Somali community – marched to the offices of the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Refugee Affairs Secretariat (RAS) to submit their complaints about the repeated nighttime attacks. However, while the demo was marching from the Kakuma community center to the agency offices, the angry refugees encountered host community members near the UNHCR compound. A fight ensued and both refugees and hosts sustained injuries before police arrived at the scene, dispersing the energetic crowd.

In photograph Simon shows his recovering gunshot wounds to KANERE reporter at camp clinic (Simon* not his real name)/By KANERE

“The refugee protesters think the members of host community they met outside the agency compound may have included some of the nighttime attackers, while members of the host community believe that refugees were coming to attack them in town. But it seems like much of this fight resulted from a big misunderstanding,” explained a security guard who preferred to remain anonymous.

As the tension heightened between the refugees and members of the host community, tires were set on fire on the bridge that connects Kakuma town to the camp and UNHCR compound. Kakuma Police intervened to clear the crowds, disperse both sides by shooting multiple tear gas canisters.

Several convoys of UNHCR staff were allegedly spotted leaving the compound in the direction of the airport under armed police escorts. However, security forces managed to contain the situation, such that businesses in the camp reopened by the end of July 12.

“The clash on July 10 started when innocent people from both the refugees and the host groups-initiated confrontations by throwing stones but the ultimate cause of the confrontation was the repeated robbery attacks at nights,” Ahmed Mohamed explained to a KANERE reporter.

In interagency meetings, Turkana County Secretary Peter Eripete warned that conflict between the refugees and the host community risks interrupting the implementation of Kalobeyei Integrated Socio-Economic Development Programme (KISEDP), which has been hailed as an innovative model for integration of refugees and host community. “I advise the local community to channel existing grievances to the right authorities, because the escalation of disagreement paints a poor picture of integration efforts.”

Following the July 10 incident, UNHCR called for a mediation meeting in its compound to that would include leaders and elders from both the refugee and host communities with an aim to pass resolutions of community peacebuilding. The meeting was called for July 14.

During the course of the chaos, there no deaths were confirmed, contrary to the news circulating on social media. Those injured during the fight have sought treatment at the camp clinics. Kasili Mitambo – RAS officer in Kakuma – explained in a mediation meeting that “during the incidents, the refugee groups and local community did not clash, and reports of deaths that were circulated on social media were greatly exaggerated.”.

The UNHCR Head of Sub-Office Sukru Cansizoglu did not respond to inquiries by KANERE about the insecurity caused by armed night attacks in the refugee camp.

KANERE is appealing to the residents of Kakuma refugee camp and the host communities to refrain from violent confrontations and embrace peaceful co-existence going forward. However, so long as night-time robberies persist, camp authorities should take action to hold those responsible to account.

We welcome comments or questions regarding this article or other stories to be direct to KANERE’s editorial (kakuma.news@gmail.com)

*Names of victims were changed due to security reasons.

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