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‘Gay’ Ugandan killed in Kenyan refugee camp

A Ugandan who fled to Kenya to escape homophobia and seek asylum and protection under the U.N. refugee agency has died.

22-year-old Chriton ‘Trinidad’ Atuhwera died at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) on Monday where he had been admitted for nearly a month after he sustained serious burn injuries in a homophobic attack at Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya.

Amnesty International Executive Director Irungu Houghton said in a statement that they were heartbroken to learn of his death.

“We offer our deepest condolences to his family and friends. Chriton’s death was preventable. We call on UNHCR and the Refugee Affairs Secretariat to ensure all refugees are protected regardless of their sexual orientation,” the statement read in part.

Atuhwera fled to Kenya from Uganda after he was outed as a member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community. At the time, he was pursuing a course in Business Administration at a Ugandan university.

He and a colleague named only identified as Jordan were burnt after a Molotov cocktail was lobbed into Block 13 at the refugee camp, which houses members of the LGBTQ community on March 15.

A press release by the Minnesota-based Black Immigrant Collective after the attack noted that “petrol bombs were thrown into a group of LGBTQ+ refugees, allies and their children who live in”.

“This attack not only set people on fire but also destroyed beddings and personal belongings as many of the refugees sleep in the open air,” read the press release.

The two received first aid at Clinic Six within the camp before they were ferried to Lodwar Hospital which is kilometers away.

“They then waited a further two days before our demands to have them airlifted to a suitable hospital in Nairobi were heard,” says the Black LGBTQ Migrant Project (BLMP).

“UNHCR organized their transfer to a regional hospital in Lodwar and, following expert advice from burn specialists, to a Nairobi hospital,” said UNHCR in its press release. “Both are receiving specialized treatment for their burns and progress in their recovery is being closely monitored by the local medical team and a UNHCR doctor,”

According to UNHCR, it was established that the deceased had other health conditions for which he was also receiving treatment.

“Unfortunately, his condition deteriorated and, despite the medical team’s best efforts, he passed away,” said Fathiaa Abdalla, UNHCR’s Representative in Kenya. “We urge the Kenyan authorities to accelerate their investigation into the alleged attack and hold those responsible to account.”

Amnesty International says UNHCR and the government should be held accountable for the attack on Atuhwera and his friend.

“Until the killers of Atuhwera have been placed in a court of law and camp security measures improve, both the government of Kenya and UNHCR must continue to be held accountable for the safety lapse that has claimed his life,” he said.

“We salute Kenya’s commitment to be a sanctuary country for all regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

His body is set to be repatriated back to Uganda for burial.

UNHCR in its statement notes it “hosts around 300 refugees and asylum seekers with an LGBTIQ+ profile” in Kakuma and has “stepped up our services on the ground.”

These include investing “heavily in building capacity and ensuring more attention is paid to the specific and profound challenges that LGBTIQ+ people face.”

In 2014, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which imposed a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

The law was known as the “Kill the Gays” bill because it once contained a death penalty provision.