by Melanie Nathan, January 23, 2024
African Human Rights Coalition (AHRC) endorses the January 2024 UNHCR briefing (below) as being accurate in terms of our understanding of the historic and current reflection for LGBTQI+ asylum seekers and refugees in Kenya.
AHRC currently supports several safe houses in Nairobi. AHRC had been involved in food distribution programs in Kakuma camp from 2019 into 2023. AHRC has always encouraged LGBTQI+ refugees in Kakuma camp to keep a low profile and to celebrate being LGBTQI+ in privacy by staying in small groups of well secured compounds within the camp. Pure logic, given the nature of the anti-LGBTQI+ sentiment among fellow refugees who have left countries where LGBTI people are considered an abomination criminalized and violently persecuted. However the protection landscape has differences it does not mean it is safe to be openly out, just as one would not do in one's country of origin.
AHRC also provided security grants to help build fencing and structures to maintain small group compound security. We encouraged people to express their SOGIESC in safety, rather than exposing themselves to the larger homophobic camp.
Most of Kakuma's LGBTI community live in small compounds and invest in self-security by not advertising that they are LGBTI. One must remember being a refugee in a hostile host country (exacerbated by the tribal land ownership) is extremely complicated and hence it behoves the entire landscape, not only for oneself, but for all, to invest in secrecy and safety.
Those at Block 13 developed a group that chose not to heed the warning for self-security. Whereas AHRC’s motto was “What you dare not do in central Kampala, do not do in central Kakuma,” noting that the hostile environment for gays in Kakuma was likely similar to that of countries of origin, such as Uganda. Instead Block 13 chose to be highly visible by exposing themselves through raising and waving of rainbow flags, having loud parties, pride processions, where they displayed same-sex public affection behavior, even with the children of the Sudanese (and other ) refugees present, all of which they chose to upload and expose on social media in a potentially dangerous environment.
PIC: Block 13 Kakuma display rainbow flag and sexuality and gender identity openly to all in camp instead of investing in self security. An Example of one of hundreds of lucrative fund raisers.
Picture: Two women displaying affection publicly in front of children in the camp, uploaded by BLOCK 13 to social media, AHRC has chosen to black out their faces - protecting their privacy even where they chose not to:
The heterosexual population in the camp did not take the provocative bait. The group was also led by some straight people who infiltrated the vulnerable LGBT group. Straights were in Kakuma pretending to be gay, trans, etc., hoping to be resettled to a country like America. These opportunists had hoped for easy resettlement abroad and seized the fundraising opportunities that Kakuma and being LGBT presented.
Together the vulnerable LGBT group and the opportunistic straight leadership planned and staged events where people were seemingly attacked and injured by other homophobic refugees. After such attacks videos recording the events were uploaded to social media and the group opportunistically called for urgent and immediate evacuation, all the while raising funds to pay medical bills for injured. This, although injuries are fully attended to for free in the camp. Westerners were duped into sending money and they did, on fueling more such staging.
One wonders who of these players knew what. At the same time AHRC is in possession of evidence that points directly to participants and their roles, as well as taped confessions of those involved in the scheme.
The idea was that if there was enough harm, to Block 13, who touted their staging area as the space for the entire LGBT population of Kakuma, then UNHCR and the Kenyan Government would be forced to procure an immediate evacuation from the camp and that the LGBTI group would then be immediately resettled abroad. It was also a money-raising vehicle for fundraisers who were never able to fully explain spending of funds, including the alleged actual vehicle purchased by a Block 13 participant. What is really awful about this and may be the subject of further posts by AHRC is that people were seriously hurt and even died as a result of the events that transpired at Block 13.
AHRC warned that this dishonest, fraudulent and downright dangerous strategy would backfire. We were right – it did. It has caused the Kenyan government to refuse to proceed with any LGBTQI+ RSD.
In short Block 13 protests and impossible quest for immediate evacuation received massive promotion by an expat Ugandan podcaster and fundraiser in the USA, an organization in the USA, BLMP from TRANSGENDER LAW CENTER OF USA, other westerners, a group of South African activists and organizations, some Canadians, all who promoted and funded Block 13 and their call for immediate evacuation and money. As can be seen from the UNHCR Briefing below, such would never have been possible given the roles and protocols and how the protection environment works. Many players knew this, but ignored the reality and dangers their actions provoked.
UPDATE REGARDING INVESTIGATION:
The main leadership at BLOCK 13 who were claiming immediate evacuation, still prevalent on social media, and nonetheless under these conditions where fraud has been a looming question and worth investigating include: Gilbert Kagarura who it is alleged managed to get a RSD process for a fee, in Kenya at a time when no one else seemed able to get RSD in Kenya under claims of being LGBTQI+ and managed to find his way to USA.
A well known investigative journalist has received several confessions from players at Block 13. This investigation is ongoing. The evidence is there!
Other names of those at Block 13 during this suspect period include: Doreen Andrews (left Kakuma AUG 2020) Stephen Ssebuma (left kakuma AUG 2020 and now in Canada) Wavamuno Benon, Bashir Sekyanzi , Eric Masagazi, Hamsa Dhikusoka, Regina Kazaire, John Graham on fb) Ivan Ssenyango, Joan Lukenge, Jopsephine N, harif Kiwana, Hadija, Paul kanyame, (aka Canary), Chrichton ( now deceased in a fire that confessions indicate were self ignited by Block 13.
Victor Mukasa has platformed many of these Block 13 participants on his show.
PIC: Promoters of the Block 13 call for evacuation and funding
PIC: BLMP Promoted the publicity for BLOCK 13
African Human Rights Coalition engaged most of these players with briefings detailing the truth and our briefings were ignored as these promoters continued on the same path. They kept the facade going, bringing more attention to this, while the Kenyan government investigated and were aware of the truth. AHRC warned these participants of the inevitable outcome, which we predicted in 2020. Not only were our warnings ignored, but the players doubled down, tried to silence AHRC, and made lying accusations that sought to cancel the work of AHRC.
Now that RSD has in fact shut down, the result is evident. Yet more people from abroad are jumping in creating fundraisers online to try and raise money for those apparently trying to flee Kakuma camp, realizing they will not get the quick evacuation they had hoped for. As UNHCR points out, not only has RSD stopped for LGBT but for the general populace there is a back log for 150,000 refugees who will probably receive some process over the next several years.
What I have reported here is a tip of the iceberg.
Notably LGBTI refugees are very limited in their pathways. Despite the fact that over 200 have been resettled abroad from Kenya, about 800 remain and more are arriving. Encampment is the law. At least in Kakuma, for now, if LGBTI refugees live quietly in small groups, they will have shelter, basic food, free medical care and opportunities for livelihood programs and perhaps even resettlement or complimentary pathways if things quiet down and the Kenyans resume RSD for this group. Those who are fleeing to the city will have no services and no shelter and will be constantly seeking funding to survive with no durable solutions. As more money is raised more frauds will show up with their stories, as has been the pattern.
Of course, the ultimate solution, is a more streamlined system that mitigates vulnerabilities making LGBTI people ripe for these opportunists. Also viable pathways are needed for LGBTQI that can help avoid ongoing hostile environments. However, for as long as frauds, liars and straight people invade the space, the hope for such diminishes. This article barely does the complexity of this situation any justice. Straight frauds hurt the milieu as do the gays who accommodate them! (See advisory here) That is a starting point for change.
AHRC applauds UNHCR for the handling of these most precarious protection environments, where much has been invested to improve the protection climate and where navigating hostility against LGBTI people by criminalizing governments takes a very special kind of diplomacy. Lest we forget some of these countries are by their sovereign law supposed to arrest gays not help them. (As awful as that is!)
AHRC CONTINUES to advocate for pathways and innovative solutions. Please contact AHRCkenya@gmail.com
UNHCR JANUARY BRIEFING ON LGBTQI+ ASYLUM AND REFUGEES IN KENYA
African Human Rights Coalition calls out - LIES FRAUD FAILED SELF-SECURITY WHILE RSD AT A STANDSTILL FOR LGBTQI+ REFUGEES IN KENYA- and now with many LGBTQI+ Ugandan (and other) refugees migrating to South Sudan in the hope that UNHCR will provide protection while the Sudanese provide refugee mandates. Let us hope the same mistakes will not be made as were made in Kakuma Camp. What the LGBTQI+ refugees do not realize is that the mass migration as well as infiltration, by frauds and protestors, may lead to violence and closure in that country for the new arrivals and the few that are able to be resettled at this time.
Melanie Nathan, Executive Director of African Human Rights Coalition is a qualified country of origin expert witness in the United States and global immigration courts, providing expert written country conditions reports and testimony for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, non-binary, LGBTQI + asylum seekers from 20 African Countries, to include activists, allies and human rights defenders. Melanie also consults multinational corporations regarding briefings and policy for operations and issue impacted by anti-homosexuality laws and country conditions. Nathan@AfricanHRC.org AHRCKenya@gmail.com.
LINK:TO EXPERT WITNESS SERVICES