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Kenya: UN concerned about violence in refugee camp


Kenya: UN agency concerned about violence in refugee camp

After 11 people died during nearly a week of fighting between local residents and Sudanese refugees in northwestern Kenya, officials from the United Nations refugee agency today expressed grave concern about the violence and loss of lives, and warned that the disruption of services delivered by aid agencies could lead to a "humanitarian crisis."

"We are not in a position to distribute food, provide water and health services due to security concerns," said Cosmas Chanda, Head of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Sub-Office in Kakuma. "If this violence is not stopped, then we are going to have a humanitarian crisis."

The UN agency does not even have access to the main hospital that serves the sprawling refugee camp, which is home to more than 86,000 people, of whom about 65,000 are from Sudan.

In addition, the UNHCR transit point in Lokichoggio near the Sudan border, where asylum seekers report on arrival in Kenya, is currently not functioning because of tension between the Sudanese and the local community. There are 335 Sudanese at the centre who cannot be moved to the camps because of lack of security.

Although the Kenyan Government sent a contingent of the paramilitary General Services Unit to Kakuma over the weekend, calm has still not been restored. Just Monday morning, two more Sudanese refugees and an Ethiopian refugee were killed, the agency reported.

Violence erupted last Wednesday in a dispute over cattle. Both communities keep cattle, and local Turkana cattle-owners were outraged when a missing cow was found in the homestead of one of the Sudanese refugees in the camp.

In circumstances that are not yet clear, a Turkana man was killed last Wednesday. "The Turkana followed a trail of blood and found the body inside the refugee camp," said Arun Sala-Ngarm, UNHCR Deputy Representative in Kenya. That led to an attack on the camp on Friday, in which two Sudanese refugees were killed by gunfire from AK-47 Kalashnikov rifles.

Further armed attacks by local Turkana people on the unarmed refugees over the weekend and on Monday brought the total death toll to eight Sudanese refugees, one Ethiopian refugee and two local Turkanas.


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