Are we safe?

By Naimana Faridah

It’s always like a ritual that people have to celebrate a new year, and every year people are always so excited and they always wait eagerly in their homes. People are always ready with drums and gallons, and even some people buy fireworks. It’s usually a joyful moment for every family, nationality, and religion, because this is the only time that all the families are together. Since I arrived at the camp, we have been celebrating the new year in a very peaceful way. People don’t sleep. But this year–2023–was so different.

I remember being woken up on 1/1/2023 with sirens from the police very early in the morning at about 6:00 am. When I woke up there was a lot of commotion outside the street since our house is just a few miles from the roadside. When I went out to check on what was happening, I realized I wasn’t alone. Already many people had woken up due to the noise and the commotion that was outside. On the night of the new year, there was a lot of criminal activity.While some were shouting and celebrating the new year of 2023, others were busy raiding shops. More than 20 shops were raided that particular day and many people lost thousands of money from their shops.

I took a step forward and I asked one boy who I think was at the age of 16 what was happening, and he told me that the police were arresting all the people who were involved in the raiding yesterday night. They were youths who came from the refugee community and they had gone and broken the shops and stolen a lot of stuff. Not only that but they also raided homes.

There were so many people, so since I wasn’t able to see what was going on over the other side of the road, I decided to push myself into the middle of the crowd to get a good glimpse of what exactly was happening. There was a very heavy wind blowing outside, and because I had no time to carry any cloth to cover myself I started shivering, but that didn’t limit me from pursuing my curiosity. They say curiosity killed a cat, and here I was, dying of cold because of being curious to know what was happening.

I saw the first police car pass, and it was very full with a lot of people inside and a few policemen who were guiding these thieves. Sorry to call them that but I have no other words to call them. They were all in their early 30s, and I wondered what had triggered their mind that they ended up in such situations.

One of the people whose shop was among the ones that were raided was following behind the police while on the motorcycle. When one of his friends recognized him, he called him and asked what was happening, and that is when he told him what had happened in their area and how the police were able to know where these thieves had hidden.

When the victim left because he was in a hurry,  the man who I presume was told a summary of what had happened was surrounded by people asking him what the other man had told him. I was standing very far and when people who were interested in listening to the story moved towards where he was, I had a chance to get a clear spot at the roadside.

I stood in that same place not moving. My hands crossed each other due to the coldness that I was feeling. I tried to get some warmth from my armpits. I stood there while people were moving from one place to another while chatting and some even laughing. What made me stand there for a very long period was that I heard that there were so many police cars that had gone, so I wanted to get more of the view of who were the people that had the courage to do such a crime which is more of a death sentence to me because the years that they will be spending in prison are so many,and they will be transferred to the county jail in Lodwar.

Remaining in the same position for about 30 min and the police car wasn’t approaching, so I decided to go back home since I was feeling cold. When I started moving and I was about a few miles away from my original position, I heard the sirens and I saw all the people running towards the road, and because they were many, I didn’t get the chance again to have a view of what I had waited for all that long. With all the disappointment that I had and also the coldness that I was feeling, I decided to give up and went home.

I went back to bed because there was nothing I would have done, but my mind was occupied by all kinds of thoughts. I asked myself why all these boys decided to do such an act. Did they lack anything? Are they a group of gangsters? Do they have parents? I had so many questions running through my mind but I had to shake the whole idea out of my head and calm down.

I breathed in so deeply and went ahead to cover myself up to my head because I didn’t want any interruptions, so I thought this was the best solution. Fortunately, I went back to sleep even though it was already morning by 8:30.

I woke up at around 12:45 noon, and it was my brother who woke me up because he was feeling hungry. I had to wake up and since there was nothing to cook, I went ahead to the market to buy some foodstuff. Most of the people had not worked on that day and I had to go to another market because here in the camp, we only have two markets. One is called the Somali market and the other is the Ethiopian market. I don’t know why they decided to name that but I think it’s because each market is in its community.

When I reached the Ethiopian market, there were not many people selling but I was fortunate enough to get some food. As I was walking back home, I noticed people were in groups talking to each other and I wondered what was happening. I decided to pass close to the group that I saw in front of me and I slowed down to hear their conversation. I was able to stand at a distance, but it was loud enough for me to listen.

I was so shocked by what I heard from their conversation. Guess what? Even though these boys raided, they did not only break into shops but also broke into people’s homes and injured people who resisted being robbed. Can you imagine that these youths are from the refugee community? I was so shocked and I couldn’t believe it because I only knew that it was the Host community that could come to the camp and steal. I could never in my life believe that fellow refugees could destroy their people.

As I headed home I was in a very big dilemma because of what I had just heard. I couldn’t believe my ears. This changed my perspective towards the security that we have in the camp and even as I was walking towards home, I felt insecure.

After 3 days,  the camp had settled on our side. There was also another incident that had occurred whereby there was another group of youth  attacking people along the roadside that led towards another location in the camp that was called Kakuma 2. They would wait for people who were travelling along that road and they could rob them. I couldn’t believe it and I wondered what the camp had turned into.

My neighbor also said that a month ago, a Burundian woman who was coming from a bar in town at around 10:00 heading towards Kakuma that night was attacked and beaten, and raped to death. The person who was carrying her, the motorcyclist, ran for his life and left the woman alone in the hands of these thieves. She said that these incidents don’t only happen at night but also during day time. She remembers one of the Somali women who was just robbed at noon during day time when everyone was around but due to fear no one came to her rescue and by the time when the police came, they had flown from the scene. Women are the most at risk here in the camp.

If this is happening in the camp, are we safe? Do we have protection but who will protect us? Questions that I am still asking myself but have no answers. Who can help me solve this dilemma that the whole camp is currently facing? Insecurities in the camp have become like a daily routine. Many refugees came to look for security, but now that people are being killed for no reason, some leaving their children unaccompanied, where else can we find safety?

1 February, 2023