Things have gotten so bad for gay people in Uganda, even before President Musevini signs the new law increasing the penalties for it, that many have fled to a refugee camp in Kenya. Unfortunately, they aren’t even safe from attacks there, both from Kenyans and other Ugandans living in the camps.
P told us homophobic violence is common in Kakuma.
He told us on one occasion: ‘I was working as night and the guys attacked me. Someone came around and my arm was twisted. Someone just caned me on my back.’
Luckily he was able to flee.
But another friend was not so lucky. P met a number of LGBTI people in the camp and says one of them died in December – dropping dead in front of his friends despite being previously healthy. They believe he was poisoned because of his sexuality. However, it is impossible to substantiate this.Reporting attacks and threats does little good, he says.
He says they took incidents to the UNHCR officials but: ‘The protection officers told us to be discreet, but it wouldn’t stop the rumors. And addressing our insecurities takes a long time, it can even take two months.’
Worse still, P told us LGBTI people were warned by the police they couldn’t be protected on the basis of their sexuality, because homosexuality is illegal in Kenya.
P said police told them: ‘The Kenyan laws are very clear we don’t need such acts so we can impose Kenyan law on you.’
P and three gay male friends, all in their early to mid 30s, fled the camp to Nairobi to seek help. Three other gay men wanted to leave with them but couldn’t pay for their transport out. And he says he knows of three lesbians in the camp also facing persecution.
And it’s only going to get worse once the new law is in place.