AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS Coalition is ending the Kakuma Food and Building Grant Program that we started in 2020 during COVID lockdowns.
Due to shrinking spaces for forcibly displaced LGBTQI people we will be focusing on advocacy to open up pathways and spaces for urgent and solutions to those in immediate danger. We are also continuing to focus on our advocacy efforts towards reversing the current anti-LGBTQI legislative crisis emerging on the continent.
In addition to our advocacy, since 2014, AHRC has been working with LGBTQI+ refugees in Kakuma camp among our many programs for LGBTQI+ communities in and from African countries. Since the onset of COVID-19, in 2020, African Human Rights Coalition has led an intermittent and very successful supplemental food distribution program in Kakuma Camp, as well as a security building grant program. The work has been enormous, challenging and time consuming. Funding has been the greatest challenge and what we pulled off considering we operationally self-funded has been nothing short of miraculous. The food program augmented the rations each refugee received from the WFP, the latter which has steadily declined over the years. Our funding for the Kakuma food programing has come to an end and we have decided not to seek further funding for this program. However, as far as work in the camp is concerned, select advocacy work for Kakuma’s LGBTQI+ refugees, will continue, as well as the general advocacy such as pushing for RSD interviews will continue. African Human Rights Coalition is comprised of volunteers who perform an extraordinary service. To date, the organization’s operations and most emergency humanitarian services have been self-funded by Melanie Nathan, Executive Director and Marc Cohen, Humanitarian Director, and we are now seeking external operational funding to continue to work in underfunded and non-funded areas.
We are hoping that others, especially the LGBTQI+ Ugandan Diaspora, who are apparently forming a unified coalition to help, will succeed in their endeavors and that they will come together to raise funds to provide supplemental food and building grants to ALL LGBTQI+ refugees in Kakuma, because the need will now mount as AHRC ceases food programs in Kakuma. Our hope is that this will including Francophone groups, who we have been providing services to for these past years, so often left out of due to language barriers.
Currently we estimate approximately 500-600 LGBTQI+ refugees in Kakuma, many trying to leave the camp to survive in cities such as Nairobi.
However, we are not abandoning Kakuma’s LGBTQI+ refugees, and despite the fact that ignorant westerners and opportunists with “nothing to lose” continue to harm the space in Kakuma, causing the Kenyan government to shut down the LGBTI RSD process for a period of time, despite warnings. AHRC has been at the forefront of protecting the space to the point of its reinstatement. We will continue our efforts to ensure that the current reopening of RSD is maintained and nurtured.
In effect we are continuing to work for ALL refugees currently in Kakuma as we have always done. In summary - our energy will be focused on advocacy and not humanitarian services. We will leave that to the Diaspora.
AHRC’s distribution programs over these years have taken different forms, using different coalition partners along the way. So it is with deep gratitude to all those who have supported our efforts in Kakuma over these many years that we again thank for your support.
AHRC notes that in making this decision, Ugandan refugees in Kenya seem to have garnered the majority of funding attention, leaving other LGBTQI+ refugees in other regions, from Ethiopia, DRC, CAR, Niger, Senegal, The Gambia, Malawi, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Namibia, Cameroon, Burundi, Rwanda, etc. with little to no visibility or support at all. We are finding that our work in these places has been overshadowed and consumed by Kakuma which already has global attention, that we feel it is a good time to focus our energy in places where there is no attention at all. At the same time our policy is privacy and discretion because we fully understand the fragility of each venue.
LGBTI Africa is facing a genocidal crisis for LGBTQI+ people, and there is little viable advocacy to change it. Triage for a few is not enough. For the past ten years since the 2014 AHA, any funding provided to the gatekeepers has ultimately not only yielded no change but led to worsening climates. The gatekeepers have not succeeded in changing the landscape and may well have inadvertently contributed to the current shrinkage of spaces on the continent. Pathways are closing on the continent and not opening. Anti-LGBTQI+ sentiment is growing and not decreasing, and we do not see any advocacy in countries like the United States, EU and Canada working that has changed this paradigm. All advocacy for refugee pathways has only yielded a dribble when it comes to number of people resettled. Advocacy from those working in this ream continues to prop up programs that yield solutions only for small numbers, helping very few. Some may be lucky enough to be resettled or to become part of the future Phase 2 of Welcome Corp, which will only be possible for a very few with no solutions for the majority. We have seen so much time, money and energy channeled to yield minimal impact and outcomes. In the meantime where can people stuck in country of origin on the continent go? This shrinkage as caused by enhanced anti-LGBTI sentiment and laws gets worse and worse. No one is looking for the bigger solution and all the while we continue to be plagued by lying and cheating straight people usurping LGBTI spaces. This is not helping and will be the subject of a future advisory as we home in to participate in keeping our LGBT spaces authentic. So to conclude AHRC is now poised to focus on working toward robust and impactful solutions to help many more people all across the continent an we will be pushing for innovative solutions. In the past we have experienced push back against new ideas and innovations. However, we now have clear evidence that the usual gate keepers have accomplished nothing for Africa as it sinks deeply into despair. It is for this reason that we are no longer able to justify all the time spent in Kakuma when in fact it already has so much attention and the Diaspora is ready to take on the humanitarian task.
IT IS IMPORTANT FOR FUTURE FUNDERS TO NOTE: Food distribution in Kakuma is complex and please note over 500 LGBTQI+ in need of food are not residing at BLOCK 13. Most LGBTQI+ in the camp are residing in small groups at other areas of the camp. They are discreet and tend not to advertise by way of Rainbow flags etc, where they are located due to fear of homophobic attacks. It is ONLY block 13 that has chosen to advertise their whereabouts, openly identifying to the rest of the camp that they are LGBTQI+. Due to the extreme nature of misunderstandings about sexuality and homophobia, as well as the illegality of being gay in hostile host country, Kenya, AHRC had advised against such exposure as such may lead to conflict and violence, without much recourse.
Notably Kenya is still allowing LGBTQI+ to register as refugees. This venue for non-guaranteed resettlement could easily be shut down if the Kenyan government decides to do so. It is for this reason that AHRC has recommended over the years that LGBTQI+ people keep a low profile. Our motto "What you did not do in central Kampala, do not do in central Kakuma." Fortunately most in the camp abide this guideline and remain focused on self-security.
When providing food it is very important to VET addresses as a way of organizing the distributions. When receiving names and addresses it is important to conduct a further verification process with objective partners on the ground to ensure delivery is met. It is not a good idea for a funder to release large amounts of money to any one recipient. It is advisable, depending on the distribution plan, to use financial agents and pay suppliers directly.
Melanie Nathan Law, Human Rights Advocacy and Mediation
African Human Rights Coalition Executive Director AfricanHRC.org