It’s been a couple of months since our last edition, but we are back to reporting with a few but critical items of coverage on Kakuma.
Kakuma has had very negative happenings in the recent months and there’s been no easy solutions to such. It was devastating, it was sad when communal violence erupted like a volcano between the ethnic communities, mainly the Dinkas and Nuers of South Sudan, before escalating to other nationalities. It was ugly and unprecedented killings that took place in this camp. More than twenty people were killed, hundreds injured and thousands displaced. We have included an in-depth story that features the murders and unfolding of the violence.
It seems to be the nature of Kakuma to be a place which is full of problems! The environmental problem is added to manmade problems, to cause underlying poverty made worse by other natural phenomena. On Friday, 21 November, at least three refugees died as a result of floods in the camp. The heavy downpour destroyed a dozen houses made of loose soil exposing refugees to hazardous weather conditions, while some refugees who died in the flood were not been identified.
There has been a cut in rations for nearly two months now. It is a nightmare for thousands of the camp residents who have no other option for staying alive. It’s irrational, when you warehouse people for decades, controlling their movements and nurturing them to fully depend on aid. And yet eventually, as if you’re wakened from a deep sleep you happen not to have any food in the store for them! Refugees view the ongoing hunger as a gross failure of accountability in providing food as a basic human right that every human being is entitled to by UN – World Food Program.
Quite simply, this is the impact of warehousing! There are speculations that the next catastrophe would be the lack of life saving drugs in the refugee hospital. Anyone could guess what would happen in such a scenario! Yet, every year, the camp has received unknown billions of aid dollars that were never disclosed to the beneficiaries. There are many theories about the game of the aid industry both from the refugees and the international community, because the principles on paper contradict the facts and reality on refugee protection on the ground.
In spite of less emphasis than usual, the sixteen days of gender activism were ‘celebrated’ by several humanitarian NGOs in supporting the campaigns to shed light on gender based violence and children’s rights. In commemoration of these major days that were observed internationally, a story on the refugees living with disability, with their first hand views is included in this edition.
As we would strive hard to report in the new year, we are asking our readers to take action on each story by creating publicity on the refugees’ situation and supporting the work of KANERE from within the camp.
We are looking forward to your comments, suggestions and article contribution to a free press. We would like to consider well balanced, informative stories with value on refugee affairs.
KANERE’s editorial would like to wish you happy holidays and Merry Christmas!
“I doubt whether any humanitarian NGOs were able to document the killings that took place. We lost six refugees killed and thousands displaced from the Great Lakes community,”
– a Congolese humanitarian aid worker told Kanere/ “Violence in Kakuma Kills 20”
“This initiative aims at supporting the spontaneous return movement we have observed since 2012 and at better targeting the assistance needed by those opting to return to their places of origins to rebuild their lives,”
– Raouf Mazou, Representative of UNHCR Kenya/ “Repatriation of Somali Refugees”
“As camp refugees we are entirely depending on the rations for survival, now that it’s cut, then refugees are at risk of starvation,”
– A refugee camp leader told Kanere/ “WFP to cut food rations”
“We are not seen as useful members of the communities, but we are people with brain and soul,”
– Abdinasir Mohammed, chairperson of the disabled group in Kakuma 1/ “International Day of Persons with Disability”
“Earlier on, it was with luck that a group of six administration police officers came to rescue the people but they were outnumbered,”
– Abdiweli Osman, a Somali refugee/ “Passengers Taken Hostage at Kainuk, Turkana”
“I’ve personally visited the ‘Hongkong’ police post over the rape case but police didn’t act responsively,”
– a Nuer refugee leader in Kakuma 1 told KANERE/ “Violence in Kakuma Kills 20”
“As a result of insufficient funding, the WFP has been forced to reduce food rations for over half a million refugees living in the Dadaab and Kakuma camps by 50 percent,”
– Challiss McDonough, WFP’s regional spokeswoman/ ” WFP to cut food rations”
“Kakuma is not a good place for anyone to live but the disabled people have lost hopes,”
– says 34 years old Mukishimana, a disabled person from North Kivu, Congo/ “International Day of Persons with Disability”
“We are not sure of where to go and what we are required to do. I don’t know what amount of support is available for my family!”
– Ali Ibrahim Mohamed from Dadaab’s Ifo 2 camp/ “Repatriation of Somali Refugees”
“In the first week of violence at least 10 refugees were killed from South Sudan, the situation worsened in the second week and we lost 11 refugees from different nationalities,”
– a leader from the Dinka community told Kanere in an interview/ “Violence in Kakuma Kills 20”
“We could not establish the cause of the fire and had no knowledge why the kid’s mother had tied her son in chains except that the boy had mental problems,”
– local security guard told Kanere/ “House fire killed three children”
“We have already taken over the full responsibility for the RSD process from the UNHCR,”
– DRA official in Kakuma office disclosed/ “RSD Transition”
“These forums will target largely the new arrivals among others to enlighten them on the laws as per the Refugee Act, their rights and obligations,”
– Martin Pepela – Programme manager RCK Kakuma – told Kanere/ “RCK’s Legal Awareness Forums”
“I was born in Kenya (Malindi) but my parents came from Kismayo. I am living with nine members of my family in Kakuma. I have never been to Somalia and all I know is about Kenya but despite the fact of owning a nationality by virtue of birth I don’t have a Kenyan Citizenship. The repatriation of Somalis could be premature. The country is not safe or stable. It might have improved by 50% but it’s not the right time to return refugees into that war-torn place. I think the refugee leaders should be allowed to go and see and return mission to understand current situation of peace in Somalia. Therefore, while life in exile is unpredictable the Somali refugees should not be forced to return to Somalia,”
– Ahmed Yusuf, a student at Bor-town secondary school/ “Community Talking Points: Somali repatriation”
“Most of the locals have guns because the two counties share porous borders with Uganda and S. Sudan where they import the firearms from,”
– a North Pokot government official said in a comment/ “Pokot militia besiege Turkana villages”
“Refugee communities tremendously thanked your advocacy role and provision to accompany and protect refugee rights in Kenya,”
– a Congolese Zone 3 refugee leader recognized/ “RCK’s Legal Awareness Forums”
“I ran out of my house due to huge smoke and I saw the house was burning from its roof,”
– Mohamed Qarnole/ “House fire killed three children”
“My habitual residence was in Gedo before I fled to Kenya in 2000. The peace in Somalia is still in the hand of the terrorist groups, thus I can’t go back now. The solution would be to make the ground safer for the returnees. People should be able to have access to social needs such as the rights to education, health care and food security. Therefore the International community should facilitate a better structured security for the returnees. You should not just decided to throw people like stones into the desert and watch them dying shamelessly. It may not add value to humanity,”
– M. Said, a social worker with LWF/ “Community Talking Points: Somali repatriation”
“We were told to build walls 3 months ago; my children are still living in the tent. The sun is burning in this plastic,”
– H. Biyamungu, who arrived in February/ “Increased camp Population”
“In Kenya refugees have rights. We advocate that their legal protection is upheld while they live in Kenya,”
– RCK local NGO Manager/ “World Refugee Day”
I arrived in Kakuma on 3rd July 1992. I feel like I have lived for 100 years in the camp. In such life, one cannot view life in other end except UNHCR. A life where one depend worse of all.
– Lueth M. a primary school teacher/ “Community Talking Point”
“I fled from Mankeen in Unity State when I heard gunshots in the dead of the night, that morning we were also bombed by military plane,”
– Nyakwoth a south Sudanese new arrival at DRA office/ “Increased Camp Population”
“At the moment there’re already two wells dug. Oil resource will be a national wide development. Bi-lateral understandings with investors are already on,”
– Mr. Wekesa Wafula – Turkana District Information Officer/ “Oil Discovery in Turkana”
“We have reported the matter but the police here were not serious with their job. We don’t trust them either,”
– An anonymous Nubian youth/ “Sudanese inter – community conflict”
“We have asked UNHCR about the lack of bumps on this road. Security patrol vehicles are always over speeding yet there not been insecurity alarm every hours of the day. It scares everyone,”
– A Somali refugee leader in Kakuma 1/ “Road Repair in Kakuma”
“We don’t keep data of natural calamities. Ten people may get drowned but we might only receive three bodies,”
– affirmed a clinical official at the IRC/ “Drowning”
“Today reminds refugees of our flight. It is very sad that we had no option in life, however, I am thankful about the support both UNHCR and Kenya government is providing,”
– Abdikadir M. a Somali refugee leader/ “World Refugee Day”
“I was freely walking from church. I was beaten by 6 Nubians. I will not be happy in my life now,”
– Yom B. a victim of conflict/ “Sudanese inter – community conflict”
“I was using motorbike. It suddenly landed me in a ditch. My mouth hit a hard ground and I lost two teeth,”
– Lami, N. a Sudanese woman at Kakuma 1 zone 3 block 6/ “Road Repair in Kakuma”
Refugee Day should be commemorated in a special way by giving refugees special gifts or special food ration during the distribution cycle rather than inviting them to dance, I hate that practice.
– Ingabine Rose a Congolese/ “Community Talking Point”
“The good result was as a result of hard work. Our pupils were also serious,”
– Chala head teacher at Lokitang School/ “A camp primary school emerged best in KCPE 2011”
In Kakuma camp a conflict between two Sudanese communities has resulted in one dead and several others seriously injured. (more…)
“I was shocked to hear my children drowned a short time after having lunch together. I could not believe it when I found them already dead!
A refugee family from the Great Lakes lost their 12- and 15-year old boys in a pool of water a few days after torrential rain caused damage to the refugee population. According to the family, the two boys had their lunch on the 27th of December, 2011 at about 15:45Hrs and then went to play together with neighbours from the same block. “I was shocked to hear my children were drowned,” said the mother of the children. “We had lunch together and I could not believe my ears but only to find them already dead,” she added.
The incident happened at 16:00Hrs at the Nabek seasonal river where activities like brick making and watering vegetables take place before it dries up. The two boys were from the Burundian community of Kakuma 1, Zone 4, Block 1. Eye witnesses say that perhaps they went to the deepest area of the stagnant pool and then were submerged under water because none of them knew how to swim. The elder went to the deepest point of the pool, so his younger brother went to rescue him but tragically drowned in the process. “I saw many children swimming and a moment later one was drowning. I started shouting, and there was no body around except the helpless young boys who surrounded me…,” said Alex, a class 4 pupil in the camp primary school. Community members responded to the scene but they found that the two brothers were already dead in the water. The incident was reported both to the UNHCR and LWF Camp security and to the Kenya police. The UNHCR field and security staff visited the scene and the affected family. The corpses were removed and taken to the refugee camp hospital mortuary. The bodies were released to the family for burial on the 28th of December, 2011.
Several reports have indicated that rains in the mountainous area that surrounds the camp and some from Ugandan side always cause seasonal flooding in the camp, and from time to time individuals have lost their lives. Two years ago a Kakuma Mission Hospital vehicle was waterlogged at Kalobei village killing a nun and two medical personnel one of whom served at the IRC Camp Hospital. In November 2011, Hassan Sade , a 19 -year old Somali male refugee, went missing after three days of flooding in Kakuma 1, Zone 2, Block 10. Relatives reported that Hassan developed mental illness in Kakuma. Two days later his swollen body was found submerged in the sandy flow of the river about 20km away from the Kakuma Camp Lokichogio road.
Security measures have been taken, and all humanitarian agencies have been advised not to travel or drive through the flooded river inside or outside the camp. KANERE urges refugees in the Camp not to swim or leave their children unattended in the hazardous areas.
Kakuma Refugee Camp redrawn under the new constitution that will be adopted from January 2012
The blocking system enhances camp leadership, governance and community participation following the new camp addressing system that was implemented in 2011. Kakuma Refugee Camp has been redrawn in accordance with the new rules that are believed to shape the camp life and intercommunity integration for the better through new measures such as regular elections.
Over 150 candidates filed their applications with the office of the Lutheran World Federation – Peace Building and Community Resolution Unit where they eagerly waited their names to be short listed.
Even though the camp constitution was aimed to institutionalize the rules of encampment policy, democracy, human rights and freedom, the first two drafts were firmly rejected by community leaders. The final draft was approved in Fall 2011. Its approval came after several consultation meetings and intense lobbying by the camp governing authority with community leaders. Many camp residents still maintain that the constitution fails to address the warehousing situation. It has, for instance, not explained why refugees are warehoused in camps for decades with no options for settlement or integration in the host communities even after such a long time.
Community leaders and residents have expressed mixed feelings toward the constitution. The majority of the camp residents are illiterate and would need a longer time to understand the contents of the constitution. “I have only heard the new constitution, and that there will be elections. Don’t I have the right to know and give my consent?” asked a leader of a women’s support group at Kakuma 3.
According to Article 2 of the2011 constitution of the Kakuma Refugee Camp, its objectives are to strengthen the self-management of the refugee community and to generally ensure that the welfare, wellbeing and the rights of refugees at the camp are protected. Incentive staff, including school teachers, who have read the constitution, stated that the new constitutional system will create a better change in the community although they acknowledge that there are some considerable gaps. “It is written on paper but how practical will it be? Let’s see what happens,” said a primary school teacher at Kakuma 2.
Refugee leaders differ on several issues relating to the constitution. Many leaders have complained that there wasn’t enough information released in the community on the creation of new rules. Other leaders described it as a way to enhance a system that aims to constrain and control the camp environment. “In our community there is no problem, we have understood the new constitution. It’s fine though the old leaders are not happy; we are ready and waiting for election time,” said a Somali leader at kakuma1 Zone1 Block8.
Minor conflicts have been reported in a few blocks which lack physical demarcations that separate one block from the other. Due to this, UNHCR has not announced the date of the election. No campaigning has been authorized to take place in the community until short listed candidates are notified to do so. Campaigning is expected to last for a limited number of weeks.
Several community leaders have held secret meeting at evenings to plan for the elections especially that of the camp governor, a very competitive position created for the first time ever in Kakuma camp.
Camp Management Committees
The new Kakuma Refugee Camp constitution has created numerous committees within different areas of the camp settlement. There are three levels of management: There will be 94 block management committees, 8 zonal management committees and 2 Camp management committees. Block residents shall appoint members of the electoral committee for the block management committees. There are 94 registered blocks in the camp and each block will have a block management committee.
The Block Management Committee is comprised of sectoral committees on Shelter and Infrastructure, Health and Nutrition, Food and Firewood, the Environment, Peace and Security, Education and Youth, Gender Support, Children, and Persons living with disabilities.
The Zonal Management Committee is comprised of the zonal chairperson, zonal vice chairperson, zonal security, zonal interpreters and zonal sectoral committees. Each zone shall have a zonal management committee which shall be composed of two block leaders of both genders from each block within a particular zone. The members shall elect a chairperson, vice-chairperson of both gender and a secretary. Any block leader elected as chairperson and vice-chairperson shall cease being a block leader and a by-election shall be held at the block level.
The Camp Management Committee is comprised of the Camp Governor, the Camp vice Governor and the Camp Secretary. There will be an overall camp management committee which will include the camp governor and vice camp governor of each zonal management committee and a representative of persons living with disabilities.
The election process will be conducted without discrimination based on nationality, ethnicity, religion or sex. It will be based on the capacity and willingness of the candidates. All elections shall be carried out by secret ballot as indicated in the constitution. According to Article 7 of the 2011 Constitution, after the campaigning period, the process of elections will be witnessed by a taskforce including representatives from the Kenyan Department for Refugee Affairs, the Lutheran World Federation and UNHCR as well as any other appointed agency.
In what will be the old Kakuma refugee camp, the leaders will be elected based on blocks, zones, and areas. “There have been delays in the entire process, but new leadership camp elections are expected by March 2012,” Said an an electoral committee member.
Electoral Committees have been established in each block and shall act as independent bodies in charge of organizing elections for block leaders and of overseeing the appointments of sectoral committees members. Among its core functions; the electoral committee of the block management committee shall oversee campaigns, provide ballot boxes and assist in counting votes. Tallying and the announcement of results will be done at the polling stations. The committee will declare the successful candidates with the election taskforce.
The constitution gives more power to the camp governor by establishing wide committees. Refugees worry that this power might be used by authorities to control and limit the decision-making that affect the well-being of camp residents in daily life.
The Term of Office
Article 8 clarifies that elected officials shall serve two years and can be re-elected for another term. Upon the expiry of two terms they are barred from re-election.
Article 3 states that any person registered with the government of Kenya and UNHCR and who resides at the Kakuma Refugee Camp is bound by the Constitution.
To read more about the camp constitution, we ask KANERE readers to check on the views and opinions of refugee leaders on the Community Talking Point.
KANERE talks to community leaders about their diverse perspectives on the New Camp Constitution and Election.
“The community has welcomed the idea of a new Camp Constitution. Tribalism and religious interest do not constitute a good match with the current constitutional system. We need change in leadership from the community to the camp levels. It is important that people be liberated from the chain of ethnicity. “
– Ugandan Community Leader
“I want to welcome the new constitution. This is a new kind of structure that we never had before in this camp. Every block will have ten block representatives who will work in cooperation. I also hope that this will be the time that youth will have a chance to participate in leadership and governance to reform our society. “
– F. Said, Overall Somali Youth Leader at Kakuma Camp.
“I strongly oppose the new rules of the camp. It’s a dictatorial regime that imposed on the minority the will of the majority. In my view, the camp should be governed by the laws of the country not new rules of its kind. That is why the Constitution will have a negative impact. Knowledge and knowing one’s rights is what can make us intelligent.”
– Anonymous UNHCR Refugee Interpreter
“A power shift will not be realistic, I think. This may not be true but elected leaders can be controlled like puppets. A true governor should have decision-making power over anything which affects the community negatively or positively.”
– A. Thomas, Kakuma 2 Primary School Teacher
“There is a bureaucratic interest in this structure. This is not a well-defined constitution. Politics will take over within the communities. In this context, I would also wish to know what the law states in the Bill of Rights regarding refugee protection, which is a civil and political right in any democratic governance.”
– Ethiopian KANERE Writer
“Kakuma leadership should be changed. The camp has existed for over 21 years and it comprises many nationalities from all over Africa. We need to have a centralized leadership.”
– Multinational Community Leader, Kakuma 3
“I oppose this Constitution. It will not be easy to manage refugees of different nationalities, languages, diverse cultures and religious affiliations under one administration. This will increase conflict over scarce resources like water. In my opinion it’s more important for UNHCR to give proper attention to refugee voices in the camp.”
– Ethiopian Community Leader, Kakuma1
“The new idea is not bad, but my concern is about the implementation of the Constitution. This is going to create a unit where opportunities can be shared equally. I feel that the existence of many community leaders has expanded corruption and discrimination.”
– Ethiopian, Ogaden Community Leader.
“I support the new camp Constitution. I have read it. I was a member of the drafting committee that established the Constitution in 2011. This system can provide people with rights over and access to service deliveries. There was too much confusion in the past. When the time comes we want to elect a leader who is just, equal, educated and capable to lead the camp as one!”
– Somali Community Leader and a Contester at Kakuma1 Zone1 Block8
“I am for both new leadership and the new Constitution. It’s based on blocks which can help to identify the most vulnerable members in each community. The election will be highly competitive among contesters who are already aware of possible compensation for their service. In the past, community leaders have not been compensated for all the work they do as their position has been on a voluntary basis. That gave fodder to abuse and violations.”
– B. Wechtour, Secretary to Ethiopian Nuer Community.
“I am opposing this Constitution as it is favoring a particular national majority. I think refugees should stay without an overall leader. I want to suggest that the local administration blocks should remain as governing blocks in refugee communities because they will not have the power to decide anything.”
– C. Atem, Kakuma1 Hongkong Area
“I am for the camp Constitution as it can promote togetherness, peaceful co-existence and human rights. These new rules can lead refugees at Kakuma to govern themselves and their community as one large society guided by refugee fraternity. I only hope that the election will be free and fair.”
– P. Nhial, Sudanese Community Leader, Kakuma1
“I oppose the constitution. Not even 1% of the camp population is aware about this idea so it should be pushed to 2013. These are the rules of one person, one pen and one chair. Refugees are vulnerable. Oppression, corruption and bribes will increase under the regime of one governor. People do not have proper knowledge of this constitution as a large portion of th population is illiterate. That is why the rule-makers are taking advantage of our vulnerability.”
– S. Bashir, Somali Darod Community Leader
“I simply oppose it. We should call off this election. The Community must think critically about the current Constitution before undertaking this election. Multinational difference is not easy to overcome in overnight. I suggest that communities remain under the previous leadership and community governance.”
– Gabriel, Sudanese Youth Leader in Kakuma1
“I am against the Constitution and the election. These are two major things but have been combined together within a very short time. Why? What will be the long-term consequences after these laws are passed? People should know what is happening. They should also give their consent to stop negative effects in the future.”
– G. Mohamed, Arupe Distance Learning Student
“I don’t know what will be the outcome. There should be clear criteria for verifying candidates. People in the various blocks and zones should understand it and be able to know what is expected of them. This will be empowering for them – to know who to vote for and why.”
– Congolese Incentive Staff at NGO
Lodwar district accident claimed 36 lives while at least 84 others incurred severe injuries; refugees still await compensation from the Eldoret Bus Company.
On Saturday 24 Sep 2011, along Kakuma –an Eldoret company bus dashed off Lodwar road at Nasiger killing 36 passengers. At least 84 other people wer injured terribly. The accident happened at 5:30PM as the bus approached Lodwar. The bus, which was traveling from Kakuma to Lodwar – Kitale – Nairobi routes, hit a pot hole before it overturned and rolled. The front tires ran out while the vehicle was in motion causing casualties. “They were running in bad speed, they rolled several times before landing on the roof,” said a survivor.
UNHCR made arrangements to collect and transport the bodies to Kakuma 2 grave yard, where they were buried at 16:30PM the following day. At the Lodwar District hospital the police issued an abstract for all the dead bodies to families and UNHCR staff.
Survivors report that the bus was speeding even though the roads are in poor condition. “The bus was speeding and overloaded at the time of the accident, that was what I can recall,” said Tura an Ethiopian refugee.
According to the Red Cross rescue team, which was first to arrive at the scene, the accident was the worst of the season. The official stated that the front tires of the vehicle separated and the body was extensively damaged. “The bus was overloaded and some passangers were standing when the accident happened,” added a Sudanese woman
According to a reliable source, two doctors and one nurse from International Rescue Committee (IRC) – Kakuma were sent to Lodwar District hospital to aid in emergency response following the accident. Seven refugees were referred to Nairobi for further treatment.
Nasiger has already been marked as a dangerous spot. A number of vehicles have been involved in accidents on that route due both to negligence and to traffic. On the 29th of January at about 14:45Pm, the rear right tire of a Kenyan Police security vehicle burst upon reaching Nasiger center along Lodwar – Kakuma highway. The driver lost control after the tire burst, and the vehicle hit a tree resulting in serious damage. The vehicle was returning from Kitale where it had escorted a UNHCR official.
According to a report from local authorities, the vehicle had several passengers mainly police officers including Kakuma based humanitarian staff who had been offered a lift from Kitale. Five police officers sustained body and limb injuries and three passengers were transported to the Lodwar District Hospital for first aid and treatment. Seriously injured victims were evacuated to Nairobi by a police aircraft on Monday, 30January 2012. Three other staff members from Kakuma humanitarian organizations were also involved.
Seven refugee families with family members among the 36 casualtiess are still waiting to be compensated with assistance from the UNHCR Sub – Office Kakuma and the Kakuma court. The cases will be heard in a Kenyan court which will determine what amount of compensation will be made to the families of deceased person and to injured persons as defined under Kenyan Law.
On 16 Dec 2011 all refugee families of victims were informed in a meeting by the UNHCR official that the cases could be brought before the court in January 2012. This has not happened yet and the refugees are still waiting.
Two stories from December 2008 have been removed due to concerns over sensitivity of information. We seek to uphold the highest standards of socially responsible reporting in our online publication, and will continue to closely monitor our editorial decisions in this light.