Violent incidents at Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp claim eight lives over past week

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 4 November 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is concerned about the security situation at the refugee camps at Kakuma in northwest Kenya. Sporadic disturbances that began a week ago have claimed the lives of eight refugees from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and South Sudan.

Our Kenya representative, Raouf Mazou, visited Kakuma yesterday to assess the situation. Kenyan law enforcement agencies have beefed up security, particularly at Kakuma 4 where most of the trouble has occurred. The Department of Refugee Affairs and UNHCR are together engaging refugee leaders and conflict resolution measures have also been instituted.

The violence started last Tuesday, when reports of the attempted rape of a refugee girl child sparked fighting among rival groups of South Sudanese youths, in which one person was killed. Kenyan security personnel intervened to bring the situation under control.

There was further trouble at the weekend when youths went on a rampage after a child was hit by a boda boda (motor cycle taxi). The rider, a Burundian male refugee, was set upon and sustained machete wounds to the head and arms. Several refugees received injuries and were treated at a local clinic, and three motor cycles were burned.

Fear of the violence prompted refugees in the affected areas (Kakuma 4) to move their families to nearby police posts. Security personnel responded and managed to calm the situation. Several arrests were made. Police also organized a weapons search and confiscated machetes and other crude arms.

Notwithstanding police reinforcements, the situation deteriorated again yesterday morning, when four more refugees were killed (bringing the total deaths over the past week to 8). Together with the Kenyan authorities, we are continuing to work with the refugees to restore calm, and appealing for calm and peaceful coexistence among all communities in the camp.

Kakuma camp is a melting pot with close to 180,000 refugees from more than 20 countries who live in four sectors. The majority are from South Sudan (86,800), Somalia (55,825), Sudan (9,150) and DRC (8,800). Situated in Kenya's Turkana County, Kakuma is overcrowded and additional land is urgently needed.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Nairobi, Teresa Ongaro on mobile +254 735 337 608
  • In Nairobi, Emmanuel Nyabera, on mobile +254 733 995 975
  • In Geneva, Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • In Geneva, Karin de Gruijl on mobile +41 79 255 92 13