East Africa: The Situation As a Ugandan LGBTQ+ Refugee in Kenya Is As Terrible As You Can Imagine

An LGBTQ+ Ugandan refugee now living in Kenya writes of the challenges of trying to find a better life.

I am a Ugandan gay man living in Nairobi after being relocated from the Kakuma Refugee Camp in north-western Kenya, where I am seeking asylum.

I am 25 years old, the second child to parents who did not accept or acknowledge my sexual orientation.

I ended up being homeless until I was helped by a Catholic priest along with my transgender friend Gideon.

It’s now five-to-six years since I last saw my family, but it breaks my heart as I still feel their rejection, and it does not seem to matter all that I miss them.

I came to live in the camp after my friend Gideon died, and the Catholic priest who was taking care of us faced death threats due the “Kill the Gays Bill”, an anti-gay piece of legislation that Uganda attempted to pass in 2014.

Life in the refugee camp was very challenging with a lot of different problems. Many of my friends are still living there and face these issues every day.

There is a food crisis as the monthly food rations are being cut. We face going hungry, since the food supply is being reduced. No matter that other groups of refugees face the same problems; they have a freer environment and rights to find additional food through their employment opportunities within the camp at large.

There are also issues with the other members of what is an often- hostile community in the camp. The accommodation is poor and when it rains, tents flood. The police do not listen, particularly when we try to report being attacked; and we face discrimination from many services but none of the organisations are providing support or help.

The situation in the camp as an LGBT+ refugee is as terrible as you can imagine.

LGBT+ people face economic and social discrimination that others do not.

My plan would be to leave Kenya if I get a chance of resettlement in a country that is less homophobic. I’m looking for a job so I can chase my dreams as well trying to live happily as a gay person. But out here, there’s lack of employment opportunities for the rainbow people apart from starting up livelihood programs.

I hope to being resettled to US, since I was lucky that my application for asylum was accepted, but I’m still waiting for a reply and I don’t know when that will be.

I do not miss Uganda at all. I faced many challenges when I was there: family rejection, which pains me all the time; no protection since the “Kill the Gays Bill”; and there are many ways one can be killed if your sexuality is discovered or the danger of being sentenced to many years in prison.

After being relocated from Kakuma Refugee Camp and still facing several challenges, I launched a community-based organisation (Prolgbtiq Refugees in Kenya) with the aim of helping LGBTQ+ refugees residing in Nairobi and the camp.

I’m also running a safe house which is housing LGBTQ+ refugees who were homeless having been evicted from their houses, some who left Kakuma refugee camp and others who can’t afford to eat due to the lack of employment opportunities.

But we face challenges of food, rent and the lack of funds to pay for school or training to acquire job skills that many of us lack having dropped out of school because of family neglect.

Some of the people in the house have done their resettlement interviews and applied for asylum to different countries.

We do not know what the future holds for us. Life is really hard for us without people’s support at the moment.

Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Geoffrey Rainbo* is an LGBTQ+ refugee from Uganda (@GeoffreyRainbo)

*a pseudonym adopted to protect his identity

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