Human Trafficking: The Abused Boys of Ethiopia

The Religious Against Human Trafficking (RAHT) at their monthly meeting convened at the Dream Center, Langata road on 16th February 2019, commissioned a small team to delve into the intricate web of human trafficking involving underage children (mainly boys) from Ethiopia at the Kyamaiko goat slaughter houses in Huruma, East of Nairobi. The boys are engaged in child labour.
The team comprised of Fr. Jairo Albert, Yarumal Missionaries, Sister Maria Marilena, Missionaries of the Foucauld (MDF) and Mr, George Matheka, Counter Human Trafficking Trust-East Africa (CHTEA). The three also co-opted Mr. Mutuku Nguli, CHTEA. The team met once for a planning session at the Missionary Sisters of the Foucauld – out-reach Centre at the Mathare slums. The meeting resolved to visit the Kyamaiko slaughter houses on 27th February 2019 and CHTEA offered to bring on board a local community mobiliser who would serve as a guide.
During the same meeting, Fr. Jairo disclosed that he had contacted Bishop Virgilio Pante, Diocese of Maralal who is the current Chair to the Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Seafarers at the KCCB. The Bishop had indicated that he wished to provide a platform for RAHT to present the Kyamaiko case at the KCCB meeting due in April 2019…if enough evidence was forthcoming. Sr Marilena offered to offer prayers for the mission – as their contribution. Thank you.
The Mission
The ground mobiliser advised the team to arrive at Kyamaiko between 5.00am – 5.30am as most under age boys are most active during those hours at all slaughter houses – leading the goats to the slaughter houses, washing the inner organs (bowels) of slaughtered goats and sheep, carrying bought meat to load in to clients’ cars and attending to any other chores.
The team consisting Fr. Jairo Albert, Mr George Matheka and Mr Mutuku Nguli arrived at the Kyamaiko centre at exactly 5.30am and waited for Rahma, the CHTEA community mobiliser for about 25 minutes. Rahma is a Borana Muslim lady whose parents originated from Moyale Kenya. She was brought up at Kyamaiko since the age of ten. She grew up to challenge the human rights abuses practiced by her community. Moyale County, where the Borana community hails from is found on both sides of the Kenya-Ethiopia border. The Ethiopian side (which is highly impoverished) is the key supply of the underage boys at Kyamaiko.
Poor families on the Ethiopian side normally give out their young boys and girls, aged between 9 – 14 years to “relatives/guardians” who are in livestock business (mainly goats and sheep) with a promise to educate and offer employment in Kenya. Most of these business people buy and transport livestock from the Moyale Kenya border to Nairobi using lorries. The lorries are normally partitioned into two compartments; the upper and lower. The upper part of the lorry carries livestock while the lower part carries human beings (trafficked boys, girls and even young men illegally migrating to Nairobi and other destinations) and illegal small arms and light weapons. All this cargo is delivered to a ready market in Nairobi.

While the police and the local administration are well aware about this illegal business which is disguised in livestock trade, all police road blocks from Moyale to Nairobi operate using a coded language of “mbuzi” (a Kiswahili word for goats). In this context, “mbuzi” normally refers to human heads (trafficked children). The declaration of the exact number of “mbuzi’s” at all police road checks pre-determines the

amount of money paid for passage. Key human trafficking brokers based in Nairobi, facilitate the financial payments to all key police points up until Nairobi’s Huruma Police post; where all cargo is normally delivered at the wee hours of the morning.

Once these children arrive in Nairobi, the disguised “relatives, guardians or custodians” take over and hand them over to their new masters for immediate duty allocation within the sprawling Kyamaiko area. The boys are normally handed over to butchers who assign them duty stations and put them to sleep in the same sheds as the goats (an arrangement similar to the lorry compartments). The boys are forced to wake up as early as 1am and sleep as late as 11am at night depending on each day’s business. While the boys are entitled to between Ksh 1,300 and Ksh 1,500 per day, the broker receives Ksh 1,000 per day and the boy keeps the balance. If the boy falls sick, no one is responsible and sometimes, some of the boys get lost in the sprawling slum – possibly get killed at times or get abducted or even run away to escape mistreatment. Even so, no one seeks to know their whereabouts hence, the boys are on their own as soon as they land in Nairobi, except for the forced labour. After some months or years, they group themselves together into 10’s and get themselves a single room where they share and sleep in shifts as they eke for food and rent. Most rooms go for between Ksh 2,500 – Ksh 4,500. The boys never get to see a classroom.

While the boys engage in child labor at the slaughter houses, the few girls who arrive at Kyamaiko are normally placed as house-helps – as suitors are sought to marry them off. Most of these girls marry at very tender ages and mostly to old men. They remain with little choice since they are far from home and their disguised guardians do not entertain any objection.

Facts on the ground

When the RAHT team visited the ground, they witnessed tens of lorries which had arrived in the very early hours of the morning and had already offloaded their cargo. The team further witnessed hundreds of newly arrived sheep and goats next to the lorries. Rahma (our guide), explained that there is normally a team ready to receive the lorries. Alongside the livestock and human cargo offloaded, some sheep or goat carcasses are also reported to be found….however, these are not ordinary carcass as they normally are highly secured and guarded. Rahma was able to disclose that these carcasses are the carrying pockets for illegal arms and light weapons. The carcasses are eventually picked separately for disguised disposal but they get delivered to their owners, mainly at Eastleigh.

On another side of this expansive market, the RAHT team witnessed first-hand business of the slaughter houses. The team counted ten or more slaughter houses next to each other. They were all very busy skinning the animals as others embarked on selling and distribution of the meat to the clients. The team was informed that the Kyamaiko market alone slaughters over 2,000 goats daily. The meat is supplied all over Kenya while some was said to be exported to the Middle East (although we could not confirm these reports).

In each butchery and on the sidelines, the team witnessed the underage boys doing different things – some were playing video games with their phones in groups; supposedly as they waited for their turns in the butcheries, others were selling meat left-overs next to the butcheries, a majority of the youngest were at the backyards of each butchery cleaning the bowels and preparing them for the clients. A majority of these boys had poor or no Kiswahili language skills at all – a testimony that they were new arrivals. All these boys hardly ever get a chance to travel back home; some for the rest of their lives while others may take about 10 – 20 years before venturing out since they lack proper papers and documentation.

Government: The Sad Reality

During a separate interview with Rahma, the community mobiliser and a member of the Mathare Social Justice Network, the RAHT team enquired to know why this abhorrent practice had not been stopped by the government institutions. Rahma was quite categorical in her response: “the police and the area chief are heavily involved. Kyamaiko is a cash cow for all police and provincial administration bosses in Nairobi”, she added. All the boys and girls who arrive without documents are easily facilitated through bribes and extortion. Identification documents are normally processed through the area chief and a raft of middle men and women. The Kenyan Borana community members based at Kyamaiko normally collude to stand in as the relatives of the undocumented boys and girls in order for the papers to be prepared for the children.

The other disturbing trend has to do with the security agencies. There exists a sustained and regular financial contribution towards the police bosses within the County of Nairobi. Previously, raids have been carried out, boys arrested and taken to the Huruma police post. Before the end of day, all of them troupe back to their locations of work. Their “masters” (those who disguise as guardians for profit) collect money and give to the head of the police station. This is said to happen at will in order to raise funds for the local police boss. According to Rahma, every police boss posted to Huruma police post eventually leaves with massive wealth as exemplified by new cars bought while at the station and a host of other investments which the community is all aware about – all earned from the human trade of these young boys.

According to Rahma, “the human trafficking reality at Kyamaiko is not a secret anymore to anyone in Government. Newly posted Government officials (police and provincial administration) normally receive hand over notes of the highly lucrative business from their predecessors and this happens across the ranks”.

In the above context therefore, it is evident that the best advocacy intervention lies with the Government itself – both in Nairobi and from the point of dispatch in Moyale, Kenya. This matter requires the attention of the highest office on the land – the President and the Minister for Interior and Coordination of National Government. A structured meeting would be ideal and RAHT is prepared to prepare a video clip to support the existence of Human Trafficking at the Kyamaiko slaughter area.

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