WHY REFUGEES LEAVE KENYA'S REFUGEE CAMPS
Inadequate Humanitarian Assistance in Camps
Kenya's refugee camps are located in some of the most inhospitable desert areas of the country. The camps are notorious for their extreme heat, lack of vegetation, scorpion infestation, and proximity to Kenya's borders with Somalia and Sudan. In addition, rations in Kenya's two camps-Dadaab and Kakuma-have fallen well below UNHCR's and the World Food Programme's (WFP) recommendations. WFP and UNHCR recommend that refugees should receive 2,100 kilocalories per day, although this amount may be reduced when refugees have access to other means of survival.131 WFP was distributing between 1,400 and 1,600 kilocalories in Kakuma camp and 1,400 in Dadaab in the first four months of 2002.132 In February 2002, the WFP lacked the funds and food donations necessary to meet the nutritional requirements of refugees. This lack of food or money to buy it caused the WFP to warn that "almost 220,000 refugees in Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya face malnutrition and a wider humanitarian crisis unless urgent contributions are received."133
Refugees in both Kakuma and Dadaab have a difficult time finding enough firewood for their cooking and sanitary needs. UNHCR has put innovative programs in place to try to supply the needed wood for refugees first in Dadaab and later in Kakuma camp, but they are falling far short of their targets.134 In early 2002, UNHCR was only able to supply 30 percent of the refugees' firewood requirements, causing refugee women and girls to walk long distances to secure the necessary wood.135 The need to travel such long distances alone or in small groups puts women and girls at great risk of sexual violence, a major human rights problem that Human Rights Watch and other organizations have called attention to for several years.136 The collection of wood has also caused numerous conflicts with the communities surrounding the refugee camps.137 For example, in March 2002 a court injunction barred UNHCR and NGOs operating in Dadaab camp from collecting firewood in Kenya's Garissa district.
Attacks and Insecurity in Camps
Both Kakuma and Dadaab camps have serious law and order problems, with incidences of violence occurring regularly in and near to the camps.138 In fact, one paper in UNHCR's New Issues in Refugee Research states, "it is impossible to quantify the amount of violence which takes place in and around Kenya's refugee camps. But... incidents involving death and serious injury take place on a daily basis."139
The Sudanese rebel group the SPLA influences the governance of Kenya's camp, and is known to operate in Kakuma.140 A human rights organization told Human Rights Watch, "in Kakuma refugees have the opportunity to elect their representatives. However, the SPLA influences this process so that in some parts of Kakuma the chairmen are appointed by [Sudanese rebel leader John] Garang."141 The presence of SPLA leaders in the camps may at times be linked to camp violence. In 1999, the murder of an SPLA commander in Chukudum, Eastern Equatoria, southern Sudan, spurred riots in Kakuma that left five refugees dead and two hundred injured.142
The presence of Ethiopian security and former Derg143 officers in Kenya's refugee camps is another source of fear. One refugee told a Human Rights Watch researcher, "I know people taken from Nairobi and from the Kakuma camp by Ethiopian security. They just disappear. Who knows where they are now?"144 Another Ethiopian said, "my case is very serious, and I do not want to go to the camp. In both places, Kakuma and Dadaab there are soldiers and security agents. They may kill me; those camps are so close to the border. So many times soldiers cross over to search for their opponents."145
One senior NGO staff member from Kakuma camp confirmed to Human Rights Watch that the proximity of the camp to the border was a major source of insecurity,
The location of the camp is very insecure. It is close to three borders. Ethiopian government forces have been present in the camp. Many former Ethiopian officers are vulnerable. The SPLA also enters the camp. We can notice changes in the camp composition based on how the fighting is going in the south in Sudan.146
New refugee arrivals from Somalia were encamped so near to the Somali border that two women and two children were killed when fighting broke out in Bulo Hawa, Somalia on May 15, 2002.147
The insecurity in Kenya's camps does not only come from proximity to the border, rebel groups and the work of security agents-ordinary crime also takes its toll. Banditry, property destruction, and violent clashes between the local population and refugees are common,148 and UN and government sources allege that small arms traffickers operate in Dadaab camp.149 In addition, sexual violence is an ongoing problem. Refugee women reported seventy incidents of rape in Dadaab in the first eleven months of 2001, according to UNHCR. In Kakuma, nineteen cases were reported in the first six months of 2001.150
Insecurity for Particular Individuals
While some refugees are afraid of conditions in the camps because of generalized insecurity, others have individual reasons for fearing the camps because their ethnicity or their previous political or religious affiliations, or those of family members, make them targets for ongoing persecution. In Kakuma camp, Human Rights Watch interviewed Othman B., a Somali refugee who had been plagued by insecurity in both Dadaab and Kakuma camps. His story illustrates how the presence of arms, politically- and ethnically-based hostility, and inadequate law enforcement can create a deadly combination for some refugees:
We came to Dadaab camp in 1992, but we faced the same problem there as we did in Somalia. We come from a minority tribe called the Geri tribe.151 My father was a leader for our tribe and was always working for the rights of the Geri. In 1999 my father and uncle were shot and killed in Dadaab camp [complex].152 Two others were seriously wounded. We were always reporting on our security problems before this happened, and after it happened they finally believed us. Because of these problems, they transferred us to Nairobi where UNHCR looked at our situation and they decided to send us to Kakuma camp. However, the same people have come after us here. I was attacked first in 2000 and most recently when I went to get medical treatment at the clinic in June 2001 I was attacked again. After these incidents, every time I need to pass out of the protection area153 for medical treatment I worry . . . will I come back to my family? We have recently had news that another of our relatives was attacked and shot in Dadaab. They have started to hunt us down wherever we are in Kenya. I am not a free person here [in Kakuma protection area]. All the time, I just sit here. It is not good for your health; it is like someone in prison.154
Ethnic Tensions or Discriminatory Treatment in Camps
Refugees often bring the prejudices and conflict plaguing their home countries with them to refugee camps. The resulting violence and discrimination can sometimes make life in the camps unbearable for at-risk or minority groups. In a lengthy interview with a Human Rights Watch researcher, several staff members of international relief NGOs working in Kenya's Kakuma camp outlined the most common forms of discrimination and violence in that refugee community (since Uganda also hosts refugees from each of the nationalities discussed, some of the same ethnic/political forces are also at play in Uganda's refugee communities):
Sudanese who are aligned to the "Arab" population [referring to northern Muslim Arabic-speaking Sudanese who control the government of Sudan] are assaulted for being anti-SPLA. Those [southern Sudanese] believed to be against the SPLA are attacked and some have even been killed.155 Young Sudanese girls who refuse arranged marriages are also at risk of violence and shunning. . . Rwandan refugees, particularly the Tutsi, have suffered from harassment and stonings in Kakuma camp. Any refugees with mixed marriages suffer a lot of problems, especially Rwandan Hutu with Tutsi.... There are inter-clan tensions and violence amongst the Somalis,156 and the Banyamulenge157 face discrimination from other Congolese.158
Interviews with refugees in both Kenya and Uganda demonstrate the accuracy of this assessment. For example, discrimination against Banyamulenge and between Hutu and Tutsi were often mentioned. A Congolese man from the Banyamulenge ethnic group had been placed in the protection area of Kakuma camp because he had been violently attacked by other Congolese living there. His brother, who had fled to Nairobi, told a Human Rights Watch researcher, "all the Congolese want to kill him there."159
As mentioned above, Sudanese girls who refuse familial instructions to marry are often at risk in Kenya's refugee camps, where they can be easily found and abducted or otherwise forced to go through with the marriage. Awut S. is a sixteen-year-old Sudanese girl who fled Sudan in 1992. Awut was placed in the protection area of Kakuma when she refused to marry a man in Sudan who paid 150 cows to her uncle who moves between Kakuma and Sudan, for her dowry. She told a Human Rights Watch researcher,
I don't want to get married. I don't have money. We just have nothing. I have been in this place [Kakuma protection area] since May 10, 2000. My uncle is so angry with me he beat Mom . . . he beat Mom until she was admitted to the hospital [in Kakuma camp]. He tried to catch me when I went to school. I am staying here because I have no place to go. I cannot go to school when I am here. I am missing my school so much. I cannot ever leave this place to go to school because my uncle is looking for me. I cannot walk outside the fence. He does not know that I am here.160
Finally, an international humanitarian agency told Human Rights Watch that refugees known to be or suspected of being homosexual are also at particular risk of physical and sexual assault.161
Lack of Appropriate Education
In Kenya, secondary education is provided in the camps. However, refugee youth in Kenya who fled from the Great Lakes region are reluctant to move to the camps because they want to continue their education in French. In addition, Ethiopian refugees in Kenya who were university students in Addis Ababa162 were distressed by the fact that they had missed at least a year of their university education while living in the camp. One refugee university student in Kakuma camp said, "we have learned nothing in this place other than how to be hungry and we have nothing other than time."163 At the time of Human Rights Watch's interview, most of the Ethiopian university students had been informed by UNHCR that they had been accepted to study at the University of Nairobi and were waiting to leave to take up their places.
Inadequate Medical Care
Some refugees with medical problems never consider going to a camp, as they believe they must live close to hospitals and to access to medicines only available in the city. This is true for many HIV-positive refugees, and for refugees with other serious conditions such as physical handicaps, tuberculosis, or heart disease.
UNHCR and camp authorities sometimes send refugees in need of medical care to Nairobi. When a particular refugee cannot be adequately treated in one of the camps, UNHCR and both the Ugandan and Kenyan governments officially recognize that this is a legitimate reason for a refugee to leave the camps and seek treatment in the city. A twenty-year-old Somali woman explained to a Human Rights Watch researcher that when she was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 2001 in Kakuma camp, she was transferred to Nairobi for treatment. She told Human Rights Watch that UNHCR in Nairobi gave her TB tablets and shillings for her subsistence: first Ksh.2,000 (U.S.$26) each month, then Ksh.1,500 (U.S.$19), and then Ksh.1,000 (U.S.$13). She said, "The doctor told me I had to take nice food with those tablets, but where would I get that nice food? I just went from place to place begging for food and sometimes people would give it to me and sometimes they would not. It was like that, from day to day."164
Some refugees believe that their health is so much at risk in the camps that they find a way to leave without permission. An Ethiopian refugee who had polio and had both legs in braces explained why he left Kakuma camp for Nairobi, "...it is too hot there, the heat made me sweat and that caused rashes and sores to develop where my braces rub against my legs. I lost my resistance there. I just could not stay."165 One disabled refugee said that UNHCR reassured him when he expressed reservations about being able to survive in the camp that, "there are many handicapped people there even worse off than you." After four days in Kakuma, the refugee decided he could not stay. He told a Human Rights Watch researcher, "the other handicapped people there in Kakuma are wounded soldiers. Some of them have their families with them and the rest of their bodies [apart from their injuries] are very strong. They are not like me-they can even carry water for themselves without help. They are stronger than me."166
131 WFP/UNHCR revised their Guidelines for Estimating Food and Nutritional Needs in Emergencies in 1997 to reflect recommendations made by the World Health Organization. According to these guidelines, "in the first stages of an emergency situation, the average estimated per capita energy requirement of 2,100 kilocalories will be used to expedite decisions about the immediate initial provision of food. As soon as some demographic and food security information can be collected, the calculation for the amount of food aid required should be adjusted accordingly." See WFP/UNHCR, Guidelines for Estimating Food and Nutritional Needs in Emergencies, 1997. The Sphere Project also uses 2,100 kilocalories as the reference point, and suggests that the initial value could be reduced depending on the given situation. See The Sphere Project, Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response, 2000.
132 See BBC Monitoring International Reports, "Kenya: About 220,000 Refuges Face Malnutrition Threat," February 23, 2002.
134 The Dadaab Firewood Project, also called The Energy Management and Environmental Rehabilitation Project, is a project to distribute firewood to refugees in camps near Dadaab, in Northeastern Province of Kenya. It was initiated by the United States government, which provided 1.5 million dollars to the UNHCR in late 1997 in response to the high risk of rape and sexual assault experienced by refugee women and girls when collecting firewood in the bush. There is a similar program in Kakuma camp. See also UNHCR, Evaluation and Policy Analysis Unit, Evaluation of the Dadaab Firewood Project, Kenya, June 2001.
135 Human Rights Watch interview with NGO personnel, Kakuma camp, Kenya, April 23, 2002.
136 See "Seeking Protection: Addressing Sexual and Domestic Violence in Tanzania's Refugee Camps," Human Rights Watch/Africa, October 2000.
137 Firewood shortages are a widespread problem. See, e.g. "UNHCR deplores killing of four Somali refugees in Mandera," UNHCR Press Release, May 16, 2002; "Commission Allocates 2.5 Million in Humanitarian Aid for Drought-Affected Populations in Kenya," EU Press Release, March 19, 2002.
138 See, e.g., U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2001 at 16.
139 Jeff Crisp, "A State of Insecurity: the Political Economy of Violence in Refugee-Populated Areas of Kenya," Working Paper No. 16, December 1999 at 2.
140 Human Rights Watch interview with representative of international NGO, Nairobi, Kenya, April 24, 2002.
141 Human Rights Watch interview with representative of Kampala-based NGO, April 11, 2002.
142 A Bor Dinka SPLA commander and his men clashed with a Didinga SPLA commander and his men in the Didinga town of Chukudum in 1999, leading to the death of the Bor Dinka commander. Many years of tension between the Didinga and the Bor Dinka there, where the SPLA at one time located its headquarters, culminated in open warfare, with the Didinga taking to the hills and seeking weapons from the government garrison in Kapoeta to the northeast. The Dinka refugees in Kakuma tried to take revenge on the Didinga refugees in Kakuma. The Dinka are the largest group in Kakuma, far outnumbering the Didinga. Many such ethnic conflicts inside southern Sudan have spilled over to clashes in refugee camps in neighboring countries. See HRW World Report 2000 (covering the events of 1999) p. 81. See also BBC Monitoring Service, "Rival Groups Turn Refugee Camps into Battleground," February 1, 1999.
143 From 1974 to its overthrow in 1987, Ethiopia was ruled by Major Mengistu Haile Mariam and the Derg government. During this time the government was responsible for egregious human rights abuses.
144 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Nairobi, Kenya, April 17, 2002.
145 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Nairobi, Kenya, April 5, 2002.
146 Human Rights Watch interview with representative of international NGO, Nairobi, April 24, 2002.
147 See BBC International Monitoring, "Four Refugees Said Killed Following Faction Fighting Near Kenya-Somalia Border," May 16, 2002.
148 See, e.g., UNHCR 2002 Global Appeal, "Kenya Chapter," 2002, at 83; BBC Monitoring Service: Africa, "Senior UN Official Says Refugee Camps `Are a Bandits Paradise,'" November 25, 2000.
149 See Kathi Austin, "Armed Refugee Camps: A Microcosm of the Link Between Arms Availability and Insecurity," Workshop on International Law and Small Arms Proliferation, Washington, DC, February 6, 2002 (presentation at a workshop organized by the U.S. Social Science Research Council's Program on Global Security and Cooperation).
150 See, e.g., U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2001, p. 16.
151 The Geri tribe, along with the Gebra, is a nomadic sub-group of the Oromo.
152 On January 21, 1999 four men and two boys were killed and twenty-five wounded in Dadaab's Hagadera refugee camp See Inter Press Service, "Kenya: Fears of Inter-Clan Violence in Somali refugee camp," February 7, 1999.
153 The "protection area" of Kakuma Camp is a cluster of tents surrounded by stakes and ten strands of barbed wire located near a police depot. UNHCR places individuals or families with security problems in the protection area.
154 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kakuma Camp, Kenya, April 23, 2002.
155 The case of the disappearance of Dr. Karlo Madut from a Ugandan refugee camp, which led to his presumed death at the hands of the SPLA, is discussed in Human Rights World Report 1998 (Events of 1997), p. 75.
156 Several agencies report inter-clan struggles among Somali refugees and four fires that happened in the Somali area of the Kakuma camps in early 2000. See UNHCR, "UNHCR Briefing Notes: Kenya, Afghanistan, North Caucasus, Kosovo (Yugoslavia)," March 7, 2000.
157 The Banyamulenge are ethnic Tutsis who live in Eastern DRC, in the province of South Kivu, and have a historic tie to Rwandan Tutsis. The Banyamulenge have been persecuted since Mobutu's time in power, and have faced repeated attempts to expel them from the region. In 1999, the Congolese government launched another campaign to expel the Banyamulenge from Congo, accusing them of sparking the war that began in 1998. The Banyamulenge have endured much discrimination at the hands of Congolese governments, although others among them have also been responsible for massacres and fighting throughout the eastern region. Some analysts also argue that Rwanda has used the Banyamulenge to further its own agenda in the region, and relations between these two parties have fluctuated throughout the years of fighting. See Alison des Forges, "Refugees in Eastern Zaire and Rwanda," Congressional Testimony, December 4, 1996; Reuters, "Governor Says Zaire Army has Duty to Evict Tutsis," October 9, 1996; Reuters, "Ethnic Fighting Erupts in Eastern Zaire," October 19, 1996; Inter Press Service, "Campaign Launched to Rid Congo of Ethnic Tutsis," July 13, 1996; Agence France-Presse, "Conflict in the DR Congo Since 1998," February 20, 2002.
158 Human Rights Watch interview with representative of international NGO, Kakuma Camp, Kenya, April 23, 2002.
159 Human Right Watch interview with refugee, Nairobi, Kenya, April 21, 2002.
160 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kakuma Camp, April 23, 2002.
161 Human Rights Watch correspondence with international NGO, July 26, 2002.
162 The Ethiopian student protests in Addis Ababa began on Monday, April 9, 2001. When students pressed their demands for reinstatement of the student council and monthly student magazine, and the replacement of the armed campus security (police) officers with civilian guards, the minister of education issued an ultimatum threatening students who did not return to classes with police force. The security forces' efforts to enforce the ultimatum, coming on the heels of continuing police use of violence to quash student protests, set off the clashes on April 17 and 18 at Addis Ababa University. The riots, which began as a protest for academic freedom, spiraled out of control, and in the aftermath Human Rights Watch accused the Ethiopian authorities of having used excessive force against the students. See "Ethiopia: Government Attacks Universities, Civil Society," Human Rights Watch academic freedom press release, May 10, 2001. See also BBC Monitoring Service: Africa, "Students Continue Boycotting Classes, Meeting With Minister Fails," April 17, 2001; Associated Press, "Riot Police Injure More Than 50 Protesting Students," April 11, 2001. BBC Monitoring Service: Africa, "Minister in Talks With University Students to Defuse Tension," April 12, 2001.
163 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kakuma Camp, Kenya, April 23, 2002.
164 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Nairobi, Kenya, April 5, 2002.
165 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Nairobi, Kenya, April 4, 2002.
166 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Nairobi, Kenya, April 4, 2002.