To come out as a gay person in greater Africa is a difficult and dangerous ordeal. To be identified as a gay individual in a homophobic confined environment such as an African refugee camp is a lot more difficult.
A lot of Africans live as refugees in foreign nations. With civil and political unrest still being a problem in some African nations, a lot of people have had to seek refuge in neighboring countries. One such camp is the Kakuma Refugee camp in Northern Kenya that houses a large number of refugees from over ten countries.
A Reuters article estimates that there are over 700 refugee LGBTQ members that are registered by the Kenyan government. These are individuals from Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, South Sudan, DRC among several other African Nations.
Violence in Kakuma
With Kakuma being a large camp with people from all over Africa, it is inevitable that some will be LGBTQ members. An attempted gay pride parade led to the people involved being attacked by several homophobic members of the camp.
This occurred as they tried to protest against the violence and brutality that they have to endure within the camp such as the burning of their shelters, being subjected to verbal and also physical violence. Many LGBTQ individuals opted to seek refuge in shelters in Nairobi, Kenya’s Capital City.
A UNHCH spokeswoman said that after the attacks on these individuals, more than 20 of the 190 LGBTQ members in the Kakuma camp were permanently relocated to safer locations. She also says that the ones still at risk within the camp are going to be relocated as well, with plans already underway.
This is a lucky break for these individuals who may have died in the hands of hateful homophobic individuals. Moses Mbazira one of the LGBTQ members in Kakuma camp spoke up saying that the situation is so bad for them that relocation is the only way to assure they are truly safe.
Pictures and videos of several LGBTQ members who had undergone violence in Kakuma surfaced showing them heavily bruised, bloodied and bandaged. This is what is happening in all the other refugee camps in Africa. It is not safe for LGBTQ refugees in the very places that they have run to seek refuge.
The Authorities are Far from Vigilant
In a bid to find out if the people involved in the Kakuma attack on LGBTQ individuals were apprehended, reports show that the police are barely concerned. One officer says that by the time they were alerted of the fighting, the damage was done. He says they were not able to figure out who started the violence and that they were still looking into the matter.
This is the common response to the majority of the attacks aimed at LGBTQ members. That matter was simply put to rest and life moved on as usual within the camp. No one cares about the safety of these vulnerable individuals.
It is a positive step for the UN to relocate Kakuma LGBTQ individuals as the law and authorities are not doing a great job or even any job at protecting their interests.
Overall, LGBTQ refugees are very vulnerable to violence and even death. It is difficult enough that they had to seek asylum far from home but to face increased violence in the hands of homophobic individuals in confined camps is grueling.