This is going to begin with a death, but it is really about the living – if they are willing to pay attention.
John Paul Mulumbi, a Ugandan member of the LGBTI refugee community in Kenya died a few days ago. His body was repatriated back to Uganda and he was buried Saturday February 6, 2016.
Those who knew John Paul say that he was a beautiful, gentle, and kind soul. “Whenever he came to Kampala from Jinja, all the gay sex workers trembled at his monopoly over the market,” one of the commentators who is familiar with the prowess of his sex work remarked.
John Paul seems to have been hit from all sides before he eventually succumbed and slipped away. While still in Uganda, he had acted in some awful porn movies some years back. Then he went to Kenya and sought asylum, hoping to be relocated to a friendlier clime. Reports suggest that his HIV status was a stumbling block in his attempts to be resettled. As he had done in Uganda, he resorted to sex for money, which likely led to depression because sex workers are more used and abused than respected everywhere in Africa. Life’s tough anyway for the Ugandans who’re claiming LGBT asylum in Kenya and, without a proper income, strict medication adherence and no firm economic and social anchor, John Paul’s end was as tragic as it was predictable.
That is where the focus on death ends and one shifts to the living, specifically the Ugandan LGBTs still living in Kenya, having claimed asylum in the hope of being resettled in Europe, the Americas and elsewhere.
A number of LGBTs in Kenya have contacted yours truly with stories indicating that they are facing similar circumstances to the ones that frustrated John Paul’s chances to get resettled. One thus feels it makes sense to send them some advice.
Dear hopeful LGBT Ugandans currently living in Kenya, awaiting asylum relocation to yonder lands:
1. It is true that some countries, for instance Australia, have dropped resettlement applicants when they learn of their HIV status. It is thus important that you do your homework and, wherever possible, try to find ways of being relocated to more friendly countries to those afflicted with HIV. For example, since 2010 the Obama administration dropped automatic inadmissibility into the USA on the basis of HIV status so that is one of the more friendly countries to HIV+ asylum applicants.
2. If you are HIV+ and are on medication, you must adhere to your regimen. Cut back on non-essentials, reduce your discretionary expenditure until you have taken care of your health because no one else will do it for you.
3. Jobs are difficult to come by in Kenya, just as they were in Uganda where you fled from. You should have known this before you boarded that bus to Kenya and prepared yourself mentally for a life of hardship while your asylum application was being processed. Kenyans understandably employ their own, so don’t take it personally if they overlook you for fellow citizens. You would do the same in Uganda.
That said, before you resort to sex work, remember that it is going to lead you into the murky world of being exploited, used and abused and likely also lead to depression which can be a slippery slope to losing your life. Sex workers everywhere in Africa face tough conditions so you will not find any different treatment in Kenya. Explore other ways of earning some money, without however, abrogating the conditions of your asylum status because that could also affect your chances of relocation.
4. You know it is true that some Ugandan LGBTs have been involved in repeated cases of indiscipline in Kenya; throwing raucous gay parties in rented accommodations, making scenes in bars and on the streets, muscling in on Kenyan gays’ relationships, and generally carrying on as if they went to Kenya to be divas. The result has been enmities and jealousies created, brawls in public places, brushes with the law, … you name it … a lot of which has been reported to the UNHCR and the Kenyan authorities. You will be your own worst enemy if you continue with that kind of recklessness, and you must be prepared to pay the price if you don’t desist from such destructive behavior.
5. A number of you have notified me that you were offered relocation to countries such as the United States and you rejected them, opting instead to wait for “more friendly” offers from Sweden or Norway for instance. The reason for this is that apparently word had gotten to you that Sweden provided softer landings than the USA. You’d found out that in Sweden or Norway refugees got full welfare provisions for two years, they didn’t work while they were learning the language culture and basic courses. In contrast, the USA paid limited initial rent and food stamps, and then you had to take any job to fend for yourself.
Listen up and listen up carefully:
You must change that type of foolish entitlement mentality. Many of you have fled Uganda for Kenya, with little or no money, limited education and skills to do anything professional right off the bat. You cannot thus also expect to be looked after by the taxpayers of other countries until you decide you are ready to start working. You ought to be grateful if you can start working “yesterday” at any job. The world doesn’t owe you a living simply because you are a refugee or homosexual and so you must desist from looking for ways to live as a jigger.
Sweden has in the recent weeks cut back on refugee acceptances owing to the influx from Syria and Afghanistan, and is planning to sieve and send back the lines already in their country. What if they close their doors completely? What if American government policy changes again once the Obama administration leaves office, as they must by January 2017, and HIV is put back on the list of automatic exclusions by President Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio? Are you following political developments in the countries that you hope to migrate to?
Enough on this already.