Kenya: Call for probe of U.N. agency as anti-gay attacks continue

Attacks on LGBTIQ refugees in Kenya continued as 2019 came to an end amid calls for an investigation into inaction or worse by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.


From the African Human Rights Media Network


About 50 LGBTIQ refugees are camped out near the Kakuma refugee camp’s main gate for refuge from violence inside the camp. (Photo courtesy of the African Human RIghts Coalition)

The O-blog-dee advocacy blog reported on the latest violence by Turkana people against LGBTIQ refugees at the Kakuma refugee camp, which like the Turkana people is located in northwest Kenya.

The U.N. High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and the Kenyan government “seem unable to protect LGBTI refugees from the very violence they escaped when seeking exile,” observed blog publisher Melanie Nathan. She stated:

When reading the direct account of an horrific violent mob attack by Turkana locals on LGBTI refugees at Kakuma it is clearly only a matter of time before gays, lesbian and transgender people of concern (POC) are killed. From all the reports we are receiving at African HRC hostility is clearly building on a daily basis and the situation is a powder keg!

Location of Kakuma refugee camp in northwest Kenya.

Below are some of the reported threats and attacks against LGBTIQ refugees at Kakuma, especially against a group of about 50 camped out near the reception center at Kakuma’s main gate in hopes of finding refuge there from attacks they experienced inside the camp itself.

With help from a donor, the U.S.-based African Human Rights Coalition has provided the group with food, water, juices and medicine. In contrast, the UNHCR has reportedly refused to supply water to the huddled group of scared refugees.

One LGBTIQ refugee described threats by homophobic Turkana people against the camped-out refugees:

I walked over to my fellow LGBTIQ members (just about 20 meters opposite the camp reception main gate) who have been camping outside the reception centre gate lately. Ever since they started sleeping out at the gate (after the attacks in the community) I usually go check on them with other fellow LGBTIQ refugees. Sometimes I share with them some money to to top up on the supplies they need, just like other fellow LGBTIQ refugees do.

But between 10am and 11am, as i was still seated on the ground alongside my fellow refugees just opposite the main gate, a number of Turkana locals started walking about and speaking their local language which I don’t understand. And in about 5 minutes, their number had grown. I realised late that they were mobilising in a way and were swarming around me and some few other refugees. The rest of the LGBTIQ refugees walked away and I remained stranded with 3 other transgender people. We were sitting on a mat laid on the ground under the shed of a tree. The locals were holding tools like spades, hoes, axes and sticks. Sat first I thought they were passing by going to a construction site nearby, but I was wrong.

They swarmed around and started threatening us to leave their land in Swahili language and kept on wielding the tools and insulting us with words like “Shoga” (which is a known insult for gay people in the local Swahili dialect [equivalent to “faggot”]). I was stuck and we remained in the same position as they did their rounds us and casting threats. I knew that if we made any move it would provoke them.

Eventually they caught the attention of the G4S security guards from across the road at the camp reception main gate and this somehow saved us. Eventually two other random men came and spoke to them in their local language and convinced them to leave us alone. This is when they started walking away one by one and after I managed to walk way and take my cellphone to the shop to charge.

Overview of a portion of the huge Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where many LGBTI Ugandan refugees are held. (Photo courtesy of Ephemerian)

That same refugee and an acquaintance were attacked outside the camp when he went to a trading center that was recharging his mobile phone:

When I walked back to the trading centre to pick up my cellphone from charging, before I was even able to actually reach the charging shop, I started hearing people shouting in Swahili Wuyo ni shoga… wuwa wuyo shoga… mupiige” – Which literally translates; ” that one is a homosexual, kill that homosexual…. beat him”

I looked back and a number of locals were moving towards me and throwing stones. I tried to run away but they got to me before I could escape and break free. They started beating me with sticks and kicking me all over. It went on for a while as I tried to break free but in vain. I struggled and yelled out for help and for a moment a policeman came and intervened, I saw him and he had another policeman behind him. They tried to calm down the mob that was beating me up but they were outnumbered and eventually they failed and were pushed away, I could not see them anymore.

Even women were pelting me with stones as I tried to flee but I was surrounded. They were shouting and calling out for the others to bring petrol. I was so horrified as they kept kicking me in opposite directions to keep me in the centre of the circle and yelling out to bring fuel/petrol.

However, as I tried to push to one side of the crowd to squeeze through, somehow I felt someone grabbing me by the shoulder and pushing me forward. When I looked it was a fellow LGBTIQ refugee called XXXXXXXX …. He had gathered up a few LGBTIQ refugees from a nearby restaurant and they had come to rescue me. They dragged me through the crowd and fought on my side while dragging me through the angry mob. They were pelted with stones and beaten with sticks too but they had no weapons so they fought back with their bare hands and fists until eventually they managed to get me out of the trading centre to the main gate at the reception centre. …

All the attention was on me and somehow YYYYYYY was whisked away by the angry mob and was stuck and left behind. I was not aware of his situation since I was not there in person anymore. But when I got to reception centre, shortly after the police came to the gate and handed over YYYYYY who was beaten and had a swollen face. This is when YYYYYYY narrated his ordeal to me. But I personally heard the police man saying that “Shogas are not allowed to be in Kenya and that they should leave or else they will be killed in this Turkana land” he said so at the main gate and he said it aloud and everyone heard.

Nathan stated:

As there has still be no response from UNHCR and an allegation of denial of water, I am posting … the direct words of one of the refugees expressed through an e-mail to us, in the hope that UNHCR will answer to this, correct any misunderstandings and actually provide water and other urgent resources such as shelter, food and medicine.

The African HRC is seeking:

  1. URGENT shelter, protection and food for LGBTQI refugees at Kakuma Reception Center gate
  2. Investigation and action regarding the allegation and denial of water at reception gate to LGBTQI refugees
  3. Investigation into the Pre-Xmas attack on newly placed LGBTQI refugees in Zone 3 Block 8 and 9 and the allegation that UNHCR /officials purposely placed LGBTQI to face danger among community of heterosexual hostile Sudanese
  4. Long term shelter and planning for LGBTQI throughout Kenya, including those who are also being attacked and jailed from outside Kakuma, to include Nairobi
  5. Long term planning to find new routes for LGBTQI refugees escaping violence based on SOGI [sexual orientation and gender identity].

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