World Refugee Day 2015 – Kakuma
There was pomp and endless gaiety in Kakuma which was the epicenter of World Refugee Day celebrations in Kenya.
Burundian drummers entertain the guests upon arrival at the airstrip in Kakuma. Photo by UNHCR/Cathy Wachiaya
KAKUMA REFUGEE CAMP, Kenya, June 20 (UNHCR) – There was pomp and endless gaiety in Kakuma which was the epicenter of World Refugee Day celebrations in Kenya. The normally quiet Peace Centre near one of Kakuma’s landmarks – Kalemchuch hill, was transformed into a bubbling hive of activity as refugees, local residents, UN and other humanitarian agency staff, National and County government officials and members of the diplomatic corps converged at the venue. The event’s theme was ‘Get to Know Refugees – People Like You and Me.’
Ger Duany, a former South Sudanese refugee and now successful actor based in the United States was also in attendance. Duany who is one of UNHCR’s high profile supporters was announced as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador at the event by the UNHCR KENYA Country Representative, Raouf Mazou. “Thank you UNHCR for making me a Goodwill Ambassador; it is a role that I am honored to take on,” Duany said during his acceptance speech. He was further honored by the Mr. and Miss. Kakuma World Refugee Day 2015 pageant finalists who adorned him with traditional Turkana regalia that are fit for an elder.
Acclaimed hip-hop artist OCTOPIZZO and illustration artist Victor Ndula were also present and together, they showcased the vast potential that refugee youth have through the ‘Artistes for Refugees’ project – a livelihoods project that aims to nurture talent among youth through mentorship and capacity building in art, music, culture and sports. The presentations were a fusion of cultural and contemporary performances by refugee youth and fine art exhibits. In his speech, the Representative described the impact of the project as ‘crucial in an environment where one has to flee from home.’
The Representative also thanked the Turkana people and the Governor of Turkana for graciously hosting refugees for over 20 decades. With the rising refugee population in Kakuma, UNHCR had been in talks with the Government to seek additional land for a new camp. After a year of negotiations, the host community gave land for this purpose and the arriving guests had the opportunity to visit the new camp site. The Governor officially handed over the land in Kalobeyei which is about 20 kilometres from Kakuma on 19 June.
As Kakuma is an integration of over 185,000 people from 20 nationalities that have rich and diverse cultures, it was expected that there would be an immeasurable sense of euphoria and jubilation among refugees as they showcased their diverse and resplendent array of culture through music, song, dance, dress, artifacts and cuisine.
There were exhibition stalls as well where refugees and the local Turkana exhibited various livelihoods activities that they engage in ranging from basketry, weaving, tailoring to bread making. UNHCR and other agencies operating in Kakuma also had the opportunity to explain to guests about the various services provided to refugees.
The day’s commemoration was a reminder that refugees are simply ordinary people living extraordinary lives and are just like you and me.
By Catherine Wachiaya, Kakuma Refugee Camp