Tension as ethnic clashes rock Kakuma Refugee Camp

Kakuma 1 Refugee Camp

 An aerial view of Kakuma 1 Refugee Camp located on the Kenya-Somalia border.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Tension is high at Kakuma Refugee Camp and Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement in Turkana West Sub-County, following an escalation in ethnic clashes that have resulted in killings and displacements of refugees.

The conflict between the Nuer (South Sudanese) and the Anuak of Gambella (Ethiopia) communities has also resulted in the loss of lives and property, with women and children seeking refuge in churches and at Kakuma Police Station as some who can afford to travel to Ruiru in Kiambu County for safety.

Kakuma Refugee Camp Deputy Manager Sammy Koech confirmed that four refugees have been killed since June 20, noting that the conflict resulted from an altercation between boys from the two communities over a scarf.

"The altercation reignited the animosity between the Nuer and Anuak communities resulting in deaths, injuries, displacement and destruction of houses. We are working with peace committees within the camp and security authorities to restore order," he told Nation.

He said that the Sub County Security Committee had assured of enhanced security patrols in the camp even as some refugees called upon the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to relocate them to the Dadaab Refugee Camp for safety.

More than 300 people mostly women and children from the Anuak community are camping at one of the churches within the Kalobeyei settlement, where their leaders contributed money to hire armed National Police Reservists to provide security. They are still reaching out to the Sub County Security Team to boost security as well as arrest the culprits.

"The attackers are ruthless, they stone some of their targets from a distance, when one falls they hit them with rods before killing or injuring them with pangas and metal rods. They are also armed with knives," Mr Ayzack Obuya an Ethiopian refugee from the Anuak community said.

According to Mr Obuya, from June 20, areas of Kakuma 2, 4 and Kalobeyei Settlement Villages 1, 2 and 3 where they live near the South Sudanese Nuer tribe, have been insecure, especially at night with his community members being targeted.

He told the Nation yesterday that on Saturday, they lost a teacher. During the attack, one of the attackers dropped a smartphone.

"We found text messages that revealed a coordinated and financed attack to make sure that the whole Anuak community from Ethiopia's Gambella region is completely displaced. We took the phone to the Directorate of Criminal Investigation," he claimed.

He claimed the Nuer has also extended the attacks to other communities from Somalia, Burundi and Dinka of South Sudan, especially during the night for either hosting families fleeing the conflict or retaliating.

Ms Achan Goch, among those traveling to Ruiru from the camp, said that no one is safe.

"The last nine days in the camp have been hell. If you are not attacked on your way to the shop, you will hear cries at night, meaning someone has been attacked. My brother-in-law is among the more than 10 people from my Anuak community nursing injuries," Ms Goch said.

Turkana County Commissioner Julius Kavita together with the county security committee team spent the whole weekend in Kakuma on a fact-finding mission and set up workable measures to restore normalcy that included peacebuilding meetings and camp movement restrictions between 6pm to 7am.