PoliticsSex & Gender

lgbtq+ refugees forced to return to homophobic kenyan camp

June 20, 2019
300 Picks

LGBTQ+ refugees in Kenya have nowhere to go, according to BBC Africa. An already vulnerable group of Africans that fled Sudan and Somalia pushed out by violence or drought, now have to contend with being further ostracized because of their sexuality. Imagine your family finding out that you’re gay and paying criminals to kill you. They throw you in a river tied up and the only reason you’re alive is because of a fisherman that rescued you. You flee your home country of Burundi with nothing but the damp clothes on your back, traveling through Rwanda and Uganda before you arrive in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. You have nothing to your name and your life has been completely upended but you now have to face regular homophobic attacks and the administration of the refugee camp is choosing to do nothing about it. Where do you go?

Last month, the Kenyan High Court doubled down on keeping its homophobic laws banning same-sex relations. Refugees are already the most vulnerable demographic of people in the world and the LGBTQ+ population among them have to endure further violence and the Kenyan government won’t even let them escape that tyranny. A group of 76 LGBTQ+ refugees fled the Kakuma Camp to escape the violence, finding temporary living arrangements in the heart of Nairobi. That arrangement didn’t last long as landlords threatened to kick them out. Police eventually showed up with two buses that the refugees were forced onto for the 14-hour journey back to the very camp they had escaped from.

This innocent group of people, some infant children, have nowhere to go where their dignity and lives will be protected. Africa is supposed to be the poster child of “Ubuntu” which emphasizes “I am because we are.” It’s not so much about unity or being a monolith but rather the fact that our dignity is derived from a shared connection — that the collective was powerful. Call it grasping for privilege or call it colonial brainwashing but the mistreatment of LGBTQ+ Africans feels almost counter-intuitive. The cognitive dissonance of enforcing the violent wheel of subjugation that has the continent under the boot of the world feels more unnatural than any argument against queerness.

International Pride Month is a great opportunity to celebrate how far we have come but to also take stock of the road ahead and the next frontier of that fight is on the African continent. The focus needs to stay there for the growing number of people with no nation to protect them and furthermore, the growing number of LGBTQ+ Africans who suffer at the hands of the suffering. Who will protect them? For the time being, the United Nations said they will protect the group within the camp but the United Nations’ power have been proven to be toothless over the years so we hope that they manage to hold up that promise. One cannot even fathom what it is like to not even have anywhere to flee. Have we not failed our fellow Africans when they do not even know where to run?