LGBT refugees find a haven in Kenya despite persecution

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06/19/2020

When he was attacked by a mob for being gay, Martin Okello said the kicks and blows from his assailants came so fast that he couldn’t stop them or flee. He passed out and was left for dead in Nairobi’s low-income neighborhood of Kawangware. Okello had fled to Kenya from his native Uganda to seek asylum and protection under the U.N. refugee agency, he said, “but for the time I have been here, I could say we have been facing so many insecurities.” Before the attack, the 29-year-old former radio journalist had kept his sexual orientation a secret for months as he worked as an educator for the LGBT community at a clinic in Kawangware. Still, he never expected to be persecuted in Kenya. “We try as much as possible to keep a low profile, but in one way or another, you find yourself having a high profile because you can’t deny you are an LGBTI,” he said. “So it just comes out, and when it comes out, someone is like, ‘Whoa! We can’t tolerate this in the community.’”

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