As the world continues to become lonelier than it already was due to the COVID-19 pandemic, LGBTIQ persons are taking even harder hits with the isolation. Tragedy befell the LGBTIQ community yesterday when 27-year-old Aneste Mweru from Uganda took his own life in Westlands in the Kenyan Capital of Nairobi.
It is reported that Aneste had been battling depression and had been attacked on several occasions. United Nations Human Rights Commission for Refugees Kenya(UNHCR) confirmed the incident and revealed that the Kenyan Police was actively investigating the case.
Close friends of the deceased revealed that Aneste had become increasingly restless and desperate due to the delayed process of his asylum application. According to a post shared by Refugee Flag Kakuma, UNHCR acknowledged that Aneste was legally recognized as a refugee in Kenya having arrived in January 2017 and his refugee status having been approved in March 2019.
Refugee Flag Kakuma, where Aneste is said to have been a member, also revealed that many refugees are battling mental health issues and contemplating suicide due to the difficult financial situations they find themselves in. Previously, UNHCR Kenya and Refugee Affairs Secretariat (RAS) provided monthly stipend to the refugees- a fee that deteriorated with time until it was completely taken off the books. With many refugees unable to work due to lack of relevant documentation (due to the lag in process), they depended on this stipend for survival. With its total abolition came absolute poverty which has left most desperate and at the edge, as reported in Aneste’s case.
Several activists, organisations and well-wishers have condoled with the LGBTIQ community and expressed their sympathy at the unfortunate passing of one of their own.
The Refugee Coalition of East Africa, through their Facebook Page shared a condolence message that called for protection of LGBTIQ refugees.
“We are utterly saddened by the death Aneste Mweru. While we do not have any information regarding the specifics of what transpired this morning, the images of Aneste Mweru's lifeless body speak at a volume greater than we can express, and clarify beyond words the plight of the LGBTQI refugee in East Africa. Without knowing what was in his mind and heart, we can know that he was without hope, without options, and left in a state where he believed that to leave this world was preferable to existing under the circumstances of his life. We understand that desperation. We know what it is to be without resources, with our physical and mental health barely intact, and to be told "We cannot help you."
We fiercely implore those in power and with resources to help, to step forward and up, to do what is right, and to make a difference for the LGBTQI refugees still here in Kenya. We are asking you to save the next life. We are begging you to not forget him. His name was Aneste Mweru. We mourn him.”
Fathiaa Abdalla, the UNHCR representative in Kenya also shared a statement after the unfortunate incident.
13 Apr 2020
“We, at UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, are profoundly shocked and saddened by the tragic death and apparent suicide of a refugee today in Nairobi.
Our thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends. We ask everyone to kindly respect his dignity and the dignity and privacy of his family, and to desist from circulating pictures of the deceased. The deceased person, a Ugandan national was recognized as a refugee by the Government of Kenya.
We are in close contact with the Kenyan police, who have launched an investigation to clarify the circumstances surrounding his death. UNHCR is also in regular contact with the refugee community and relevant authorities to ensure that any required support is provided and to prevent the spread of misinformation.
UNHCR is concerned about the growing challenges faced by refugees and asylum-seekers as well as communities hosting them, in meeting their basic needs in the current difficult context. UNHCR will continue to do its utmost to deliver critical protection and assistance to the nearly 500,000 refugees and asylum-seekers living in Kenya, especially during these challenging times.”
For more information, please contact:
• Eujin Byun, firstname.lastname@example.org, +254 798 487 988
• Dana Hughes, email@example.com, +254 733 440 536
It has also been reported by several LGBTIQ refugees in Nairobi that the attacks on their already small and vulnerable community have exacerbated in recent days. According to several social media reports, other refugee communities are attacking LGBTIQ refugees where many have been left injured and property and shelters destroyed. Such incidents have further heightened the insecurity faced by sexual and gender minority refugees in both Kakuma and Nairobi.
The Ugandan LGBTIQ community continues to stand in solidarity and brotherhood with the LGBTIQ community in Kenya during this very difficult time. Most importantly, we call upon all state and international actors to look into the plight of LGBTIQ refugees because their lives matter too. They deserve to be protected, they deserve to live decent lives, they deserve to live in peace.
Out of respect for the deceased and his family, we also implore you to desist from sharing the pictures at the suicide site- this is to protect both his loved ones as well as the mental health of others.
Aneste was described as a kind, and loving person who is survived by a son. May his soul rest in eternal peace.