cc. Kakuma News Reflector (KANERE) is an independent news magazine produced by Ethiopian, Congolese, Ugandan, Rwandan, Somali, Sudanese and Kenyan journalists operating in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya. KANERE urgently seeks the support of international organisations and advocacy groups everywhere, as the group is facing pressure from local organisations that do not fully support an independent refugee press.
‘It will be a candlelight in this refugee camp,’ says a refugee of the new free press in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya. The Kakuma News Reflector, known as KANERE, is a refugee newspaper devoted to independent reporting on human rights and encampment. The refugees in Kakuma camp have been warehoused for almost two decades without a voice. Now, KANERE seeks to change that reality.
Kakuma Refugee Camp, like many others around the world, is administered by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Although UNHCR publishes occasional reports on the camp, there is no regular media coverage of refugee encampment. KANERE represents one of the first refugee news outlets to reach an international audience from a refugee camp.
Although refugee camps are considered a form of humanitarian aid, conditions of life are miserable. The 50,000 refugees in Kakuma camp rely on UNHCR for food, water, shelter, education, movement passes, and legal protection. In turn, they have almost no say in the policies affecting their lives. There is little independent monitoring of human rights in the camp.
‘In exercising a refugee free press,’ their vision states, ‘we speak in respect of human rights and the rule of law in order to create a more open society in refugee camps and to develop a forum for fair public debate on refugee affairs.’
This is not the first time refugees in Kakuma have spoken out. Since 1993, the Kakuma News Bulletin served as a means of refugee expression locally within the camp. It lost momentum by 2005, leaving a small group of journalists to keep the spirit of independent reporting alive. When a Fulbright researcher arrived in Kakuma in October 2008, these journalists suggested collaboration and the seeds of a refugee newspaper were born. By January 2009, KANERE is now 15 members strong with representatives from every major camp community.
The maiden issue of KANERE was published online on 22 December 2008. The print run, projected at 1,000 copies, has not yet begun due to a lack of funds. Few refugees are able to access the publication online. Currently, all journalists work on a voluntary basis without access to computers, internet, or basic office supplies. The group is petitioning international organisations and the US embassy for funding support.
KANERE will publish both a print and online version of the monthly paper. The online news blog, www.kakuma.wordpress.com, aims to raise awareness of refugee warehousing and to serve as a forum for public debate on refugee affairs. The print newspaper seeks to inform refugees, give them a voice, and raise awareness of human rights so refugees can more effectively monitor their own situation and seek redress of grievances.
For many refugees who feel imprisoned in Kakuma camp, KANERE represents a hope for change. As one refugee says, ‘Challenges are always there in my life, but no response is given by the Kenyan Government or UNHCR… Now we can start to address our life problems democratically when it comes to decision making.’
KANERE urgently seeks the support of international organizations and
advocacy groups everywhere, as the group is facing pressure from local
organizations that do not fully support an independent refugee press.
* KANERE’S online news blog can be found at www.kakuma.wordpress.com.