Kakuma Refugee Camp - The Life of An LGBTQI+ Refugee in Kenya

Following the ongoing hostilities towards SOGI communities in Kenya, ReportOUT spoke with 23 year old Paul Kanyamu, a LGBTQI+ refugee from Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.

What you are about to read is a harrowing first-hand account of what it has been like to live in the camp during this volatile time and some of the attitudes of the Kenyan government and within the local area which have only added to the problems Paul and his fellow refugees have faced.

The situation in the camp during these past few months has been so horrible. A number of members from the camp have been assaulted openly and we have been exposed to danger. The police in the area have also openly told us they are not in a position to protect us since Kenyan government doesn't allow homosexuality.

Some of the obstacles LGBTI refugees have faced include Social Service denial.

  • We have been denied services by some service providers e.g shops and clinics.

  • We have been assaulted openly under police watch.

  • We have been denied protection even during the worst times...

The Kenyan government through the Refugee Affairs Secretariat (RAS) has also kept a deaf ear and has adamantly failed to help us. As no one is wanting to take responsibility or ownership they have instead referred us to UNHCR for assistance but in turn UNHCR refer us back to RAS. We are left feeling caught in the middle. The drama is too much.

In terms of resources, there is very little, so most times, we depend greatly on donor help. The activists have played a very vital role in as far as providing us food and medical care in the camp as well as other necessities. To all the activists and donors who have helped us so far- we would like to say thank you.

The life of an LGBTIQ refugee in Kenya is disastrous. LGBTI refugees have no rights and we are not only discriminated by local Kenyans but fellow refugees as well. The urban setting is somehow safer compared to the life in the camp. According to the Kenyan setting, ‘Encampment Policy’ applies to every refugee irrespective of gender. However, for queer refugees based at Kakuma Refugee Camp life is extremely hard.

Although Kenya is a signatory to the United Nations, the state must ensure it is respecting human rights for all. In order to make Kenya a safe sanctuary the legislature should come up with laws that also protect the minorities. Furthermore, human rights offenders need to be brought to justice and tough sentences should be given to the culprits.