Some of the LGBTIQ refugees at the Kakuma camp. | Photo: Rainbow Flag Kakuma
A colorful Pride festival is set to take place for the first time in one of the world’s most infamous and homophobic refugee camps.
The Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya is the third largest in the world. It became famous for hosting the ‘Lost Boys of Sudan’. Last week, it also became the first refugee camp in the world to host a TEDx event.
It’s also home to about 200 refugees who identify as LGBTIQ, many of them from neighboring Uganda. The Ugandan refugees fled from their country after the government tried to introduce a ‘Kill the Gays’ Bill.
LGBTIQ have faced violence and death threats for years at Kakuma, but they hope this week’s Pride event will help raise awareness about the community.
It’s a risky business trying to organize a Pride festival in a country where gay sex is illegal. It can also be hard when you’re surrounded by people who label you as ‘demonic’.
But that’s exactly what Mbazira Moses, executive director of Rainbow Flag Kakuma, is trying to do.
‘We have been at refugee day celebrations as LGBTIQ refugees in the past but with out being clear that it’s also pride celebrations due to the fear of threats and intimidation from homophobes and heterosexual refugees,’ he told Gay Star News.
‘But in Kakuma camp, this year with courage and security promised by security organzations we decided to be clear with an aim of letting the people around the camp know that we are of no harm, we are human like any of them and also to promote unity amongs us as LGBTI refugees.’
All of Kakuma’s LGBTIQ refugees are there because they were persecuted for their sexual and/or gender identity in their home countries.
Moses has planned a full day of celebrations on 16 June. The celebrations will kick off with a sports event in the morning. Later in the day the Rainbow Flag Kakuma will host a fashion parade and lip sync performances for trans women.
‘Organizing a pride event inside a refugee camp is so challenging, we get negative comments, abuse, neglect, authorities refuse to give us permission for things’ Moses said.
‘We also face ignorance and poor perception of refugee issues by the people in power and local chiefs.’
Rainbow Kakuma Flag crowdfunded US$1,500 to help pay for the Pride festival.
Moses extended an official invitation to all organizations and agencies operating within Kakuma. They include groups like the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and World Vision Kenya.
But one of the organizations has flatly rejected Moses’ invitation because does not want to associate with ‘demonic issues’.
The Christian organization supplies in the section of the camp where most of the LGBTI refugees live.
Moses and other refugees went to the organization to find out if it was attending the Pride festival. But the organization’s staff allegedly told them a Christian organization couldn’t associate with LGBTI events.
According to Moses the staff told him: ‘we received your invitation letter to your refugee day/Pride celebrations but we sat as the officers in charge and we looked into our objectives, terms and conditions, right from our headquarters. We do not assist or engage in any activities to deal with LGBTIQ refugees, being that that we are Christians and our organization doesn’t need to associate with any demonic issues. Vacate our premises in 15 seconds and never come back here’.
‘Such a statement left us worried, desperate and disrespected, denied rights and discomforted spiritually, and emotionally,’ Moses said.
Moses is afraid to speak out further in case it compromises their food supply.
Nevertheless, he does plan to go ahead with Saturday’s event and to make it as fabulous as possible.