Note the importance of Collaboration – Risk Assessment – Preparation
There are over 30 countries in Africa which criminalize LGBTQI people and in the countries that do not, even those with measures of equality and constitutional protections, homophobia, transphobia and hate causes severe dangers for LGBTQI people. Among the most marginalized of people are refugees, who are in effect guests in foreign countries, and even more marginalized are LGBTQI refugees who are guests in hostile host countries.
At AHRC we strive to ensure that the resettlement programs in Africa are not jeopardized. There are very few places where hostile host governments have agreed to recognize LGBTQI people as part of the social group qualifying those seeking protection for refugee status. Because there are few to no choices for LGBTQI, leaving many trapped in dire circumstances, leaders are charged with heightened duty to ensure that they protect rather than jeopardize.
Kenya is one such hostile host, and may, for many, be the only venue for what is already a non-guaranteed program for resettlement. Hence all involved in this work and milieu are compelled ito do all possible to protect this program.
At AHRC we realize that non-LGBTQI identified people have breached the Kenyan LGBTQI landscape. A program that is ripe for exploitation and corruption. Infiltration has been easy and sometimes LGBTQI have been known to accommodate frauds, in an understandably desperate need for survival, to follow those who seemingly are able to access and acquire much needed funds. This lends itself to those who are genuine and in leadership having to exercise extra caution and those who follow need to be aware that even leaders can be infiltrators and instigators who have way less to lose than the authentic refugees.
So we believe that through our guidelines and articles such as this, we are elucidating the tough conversations while protecting those who truly have nowhere to go and who can never return to home countries.
Those who tend to to push back and denigrate AHRC advisories may well be those who fear truth or those who do not want to face the difficult truths that we bring into the open. While criticism is always welcome, such must be noted in a respectful and non accusatory fashion. If the critic is defamatory in their discourse, they must be suspect!
Admirably, among those willing to take risks for the right reasons are those who assume leadership roles. Leaders have a paramount duty, not only to seek solutions in concert with each other, but in collaboration with partners, and in doing so should never ever risk the welfare and wellbeing of those they lead, nor risk the integrity and existence of the program upon which their fellow refugees are dependent.
Protest is an important part of ensuring change. It is a basic human right to protest poor conditions and failed resources. However leadership always involves a complex navigation with the hope that strong effective leaders are able to balance risk versus outcome. Seeking solutions come firsts, protest is a last resort when lives are at risk!
Among the world’s most profound leaders are those who have been willing to risk their own safety and wellbeing, and many have martyred themselves for their cause. However if one were to examine history, one would note that there was always FIRST collaboration and a risk assessment as to possible outcomes and what that person as an individual stood to lose for the sake of the cause and what the whole community could lose. When it came to assessing risk of the individual versus risk of all impacted by his or her actions, one would find that the common denominator was always “NOTHING TO LOSE” because the cause was that great. However that does not mitigate the critical need for due diligence when there is a “LOT TO LOSE”.
A. As a leader or a follower – you must ask yourself the following questions in your thought process:
What are you protesting
Have you pursued exhausted all discussion opportunities with those you are protesting
Have you fully consulted with other leaders in the same and related communities to see if they approve or support your action
Have you assed the risks fully
Have you discussed the risks fully – to include local laws
What do you KNOW those risks, realistically to be, even if you think they will not happen
List what you believe those risks to be, and have you submitted them as a waiver to those you lead, so you are assured that they fully understand the risks involved
Is there a greater community who you may impact by your decision to protest, who have not consulted or who may not be aware of your protest
What is your plan if the protest does not yield the result you want- what is your back up plan
Have you obtained requisite permits and permissions
If intended as a peaceful protest have you provided full training to those you lead in protest so that they are aware of what may or not constitute risk to peace within the context of the protest itself
If you as a leader are target of police or government, such as a person who is already in the criminal system as a suspect or accused of any crimes, have you weighed up how you as a target may impact others who are protesting with you AND have you been transparent with those who follow you into protest
What is your plan as a leader for those including yourself who may be arrested
Do you have a plan and money set aside if you or members of your community are hurt during protest
Do you have volunteer lawyers on standby
What if you arrested who will take lead on bails etc.
Do you have bail money ahead of time in case
What outcomes are realistic with regard to your protest and what are unrealistic
Are you willing to succumb to the greatest risk and is your community equally willing
In the case of LGBTQI refugees protesting in Kenya, here are the risks – factor them into your above self-questions:
B. ASESSSMENT IN KENYA RISK:
Peaceful can turn violent- people hurt – regardless of whose fault, even at hands of police, who may want to exact vengeance against LGBTQI –
Can cause unwanted media exposure
Refugees / People of Concern (POC) can get hurt
Refugees / People of Concern can get arrested
Refugees / People of Concern can lose resettlement
Entire community can lose resettlement Program as the RAS could stop registrations based on SOGI completely if deemed too controversial
Can hurt the safety of Kenya’s already LGBTI community as well and influence anti-LGBTQI sentiment against Kenyans in general if protests are made public, even causing conflict between LGBTQI Kenya versus LGBTQI foreigners in their country
This could result in all LGBTQI being forced to go to Kakuma as a possible ONLY solution our needs
No money for bail and medical
C. GAIN: HOW LIKELY IS THIS GAIN:
Can we get the law changed? As a refugee where citizens interests are perceived as paramount and placed at the fore, unlikely!
How likely is it, given all the information we already have that UNHCR and HIAS will give us all an ongoing stipend, without further assessment, ongoing indefinitely for years, without termination dates? Is it their JOB to do this in urban areas? What is our realistic entitlement?
Will we be referred to Kakuma where they have shelters and food as a result of protest – is this the best for us?
Will UNHCR / HIAS/ Partners / and/ or Funders provide logistics, support, resources for investments into livelihood programs – how is my protest impacting this? (These livelihood programs are already in effect with AFRICAN HRC and others exploring partnerships for new engagements)
PLEASE NOTE UNHCR HAS NOTED THE FOLLOWING IN DIRECT COMMUNICATIONS TO REFUGEES IN KENYA:
We take the opportunity of this message to once again remind all concerned that encouraging or engaging in acts of confrontation and/or violence does immeasurable damage to all refugees and asylum seekers residing in Kenya. It is only through peaceful dialogue and good faith cooperation from all concerned that challenges can be effectively addressed.
BY MELANIE NATHAN
Advocacy: African Human Rights Coalition
Follow me on Twitter – @MelanieNathan1
Facebook Page for African HRC: https://www.facebook.com/africanhrc/