Genevieve (not her real name), aged 22years, hails from Bujumbura City, Ruzimba village, Burundi. She was trafficked to Kenya for marriage by a well-known Church Minister in collaboration with two Burundian women who belonged to his church in Nairobi, Kenya.
Genevieve comes from a very humble background, her father died while she was young and she has been brought up by a single mother with a lot of difficulty. She has two younger siblings who deserve a lot of care because her mother is also sickly and she cannot meet their basic needs. This made Genevieve to drop out of school at class five and started looking for petty jobs to meet the needs of the entire family.
In early March 2017, two Burundian women who were well known to her family members went and requested her mother to allow Genevieve to travel to Nairobi and do business with them. The two also introduced Genevieve and her mother to the alleged Pastor (albeit virtually) as their spiritual father who ministered to them while in Nairobi. This touched Genevieve’s mother who agreed to release her daughter to travel to Nairobi. The two women further informed Genevieve’s mother that the Pastor was interested in marrying a Burundian lady since he claimed that they were of good character, hence their request to consider Genevieve for marriage to the Pastor.
After several telephone conversations with Genevieve’s mother, the Pastor promised to support the facilitation of getting the temporary passport and transport costs of Genevieve to Nairobi. Out of the sheer promise for better life in Nairobi, Genevieve excitedly accepted to consider the marriage offer. Afterwards, she prepared herself and left for Nairobi hoping to find the two Burundian women waiting for her. On arrival, she found the Pastor instead waiting for her at the Nairobi bus terminus and he took her straight to his house. Shantel was however shocked to find the Pastor waiting for her without the Burundian ladies who had promised to also give her a job on arrival.
When she asked the Pastor about the two Burundian ladies, she was told that they were very busy with church work and that he would take her to them the following day. On arrival at the Pastor’s house, the whole story changed as he instructed Shantel that from that moment onwards, she was his wife and that she should never move out of that house without his consent.
Nature of Exploitation
Within a short period of time, Genevieve was expectant; which marked the beginning of her many problems in the cohabitation. She used to spend many days and nights without proper food and she was at times battered and forced into submission. The Pastor threatened to get her killed. Genevieve further reported that the Pastor had severally used men to seduce and try to sleep with her as a trap. Genevieve eventually developed signs of depression and she was admitted at Mama Lucy hospital for further medical care and observation, where she was diagnosed with high blood pressure.
During delivery of her child, she couldn’t give birth normally due to the high blood pressure. This forced her to undergo a Caesarian Section to save her life and that of the child. Two weeks post-delivery, Genevieve was summoned to the Chief’s office for having threatened to kill her husband using a kitchen knife. Everyone present during interrogation was against her, hence she didn’t give her side of story. The Pastor eventually left her in their matrimonial house and moved out to live at another house at the church he was administering. He further started moving out with other young girls whom he used to send to Genevieve to confront her and threaten her. Genevieve was eventually locked out of the single room she used to stay in with her 10 months’ old daughter for defaulting on rent payment.
When the matter became unbearable, she was offered some money by her estranged husband for bus fare to travel back to Burundi; even though it wasn’t enough. Genevieve did not have any travel documents so she could go nowhere and yet she had no place to call home. She roamed from house to house looking for well-wishers to host her as she tried to right her travel papers.
Genevieve’s case was brought to the attention of CHTEA by a Community Volunteer (CV) based at Mukuru slums, Nairobi. Screening was carried out which confirmed Genevieve to be a Victim of Trafficking [VoT] for marriage. A rescue and rehabilitation plan was developed before any repatriation thoughts could be considered. She was asked to develop a business plan of her choice as transitional accommodation was arranged for her. She eventually proposed to begin an eggs’ business within the precincts of where she lived. A single room of accommodation was also secured for her, with an advance payment of three months’ rent for both accommodation and the business location. This was happening as she was undergoing counselling.
It never took long after establishing her business to move on with her life. However, shortly afterwards, a distress call from an unknown caller summoned her to the Sub County Children’s Office in Kayole. She honored the summon only to find out that her former husband had gone to the nearest police station and complained that Genevieve had stormed his Church and defiled his name besides chasing away all church followers. He further claimed that Genevieve had launched a fight with some church members. This, he claimed had happened even after he offered transport for her to travel back to Burundi.
By the time she got to the children’s office, she found that the complainant had left the police occurrence book claims with the concerned children’s officer. Genevieve was called upon to answer the charges placed with the police report but she disputed all. Genevieve was escorted to the Children’s office by a ‘’guardian mother’’ Noella, who also disagreed with the police claims since Genevieve’s engagements over the same period were totally different. Genevieve was let off with a caution that she should never call her estranged husband with regard to the welfare of the baby based on the fact that she had refused to travel back to Burundi. As well, the Pastor was called on telephone and warned not to call Genevieve and that he needed to give Genevieve time to heal and take care of the baby.
The same evening and in contravention of the Children office’s directive, Genevieve claimed to have received a call from the Pastor threatening her that he would take action against her since she had refused to travel back to Burundi.
Further Intervention and the Way Forward
Genevieve made a decision to notify CHTEA about the threats of her former “husband”. She was terrified by the threats since she had thought that the children’s office had given clear instructions to both sides. CHTEA took up the matter. The first port of call was the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) where it was agreed that the Pastor gets summoned for clarification of the matters reported to the police. It was however agreed that CHTEA would carry out the first level of engagement/investigations, then provide recommendations to the DCI in case it required further action.
At an appointed date, both parties were summoned to appear before a team of CHTEA officers. They arrived on time and they each had one witness ……the Pastor arrived with a fellow female Pastor while Genevieve arrived with her guardian mother, Noella. The meeting started at 3pm and lasted almost 4 hours. The conversations were both animated and emotive to both sides. The CHTEA team was basically digging in to understand the whole truth; assess that against all previous decisions/actions and finally develop intervention options for a lasting solution. All options were possible including providing criminal recommendations to the DCI.
When the sharing begun, Genevieve was given the first opportunity to explain her case. She did so with a lot of detail. She however avoided certain facts which could put her in bad light when it came to a final judgment. First, it was clarified that Genevieve had initial intentions to travel to Nairobi for business, even before she was approached about the Pastor’s marriage proposal. Secondly, she travelled by herself to Nairobi but not in the company of the two Burundi ladies as earlier reported. She spoke of the Pastor’s abuse once he assumed the role of a husband. She spoke of an initial short-lived period of blossoming love but that all this changed once she got pregnant. She accused the Pastor of infidelity and neglect during and after pregnancy.
According to her, the final straw was broken when the Pastor moved in with his church’s chairlady. He stopped spending time at home and he abrogated his responsibility towards his family once she gave birth. Eventually, the Pastor took this matter to the Children’s office where he handed in ten thousand Kenya Shillings as a contribution towards Genevieve’s journey expenses to Burundi, which she never did, allegedly due to lack of travel documents and inadequate fare.
On his part, the Pastor confirmed that he had initially taken Genevieve to be his wife but that many things changed within a short time. He claimed to have taken very good care of her and that he had sacrificed everything to make her happy; to which Genevieve admitted.
The Pastor however opened the can of worms when he said that Genevieve had defiled their matrimonial bed twice and on both occasions, she neither apologized nor reformed. He also spoke of the violent side of Genevieve especially in respect of his work and the fact that he had regular meetings with his female congregants. “She physically assaulted me in front of the church just for failing to recognize her”, he claimed. He further claimed that he had faithfully been paying Shantel’s monthly upkeep allowance of eight thousand four hundred Kenya Shillings ever since they separated. This, he had been doing at a great cost to his church ministry e.g. selling church equipment. Most of the above issues had never been revealed to CHTEA by Genevieve. Upon further inquiry, the Pastor admitted to having re-married and that his marriage with Genevieve had hit rock bottom and was not redeemable.
Observation from the two witnesses
Noella, Genevieve’s guardian mother and alleged trafficker accomplice confirmed that the Pastor had asked for a Burundian lady to marry and that she only shared this information with Genevieve, only to learn later (after 3 months) that Genevieve had already travelled and lived with the Pastor in Nairobi. She also got to know of their squabbles when the Pastor invited her to counsel Genevieve every time they had a disagreement. She expressed her exhaustion towards the same and was ready to let Genevieve travel back home irrespective of the shame that this would draw towards her family.
On the part of the lady Pastor, she was utterly shocked at the level of both deceit and pain visited upon both parties. She repeatedly requested that both parties consider forgiveness and reconnection to their former selves for the sake of their baby. She further insisted that there was no way they could permanently break their union as long as the baby remained a fact to their lives. She indeed asked that they both commit to forgive each other as a first step to healing, even though they may never re-unite. Genevieve in particular was deeply offended on confirming that had re-married…. she cried painfully and shouted a few very emotional and harsh words.
Case closure and repatriation of Genevieve
After many months of follow up on Genevieve’s case, CHTEA finally offered to repatriate her upon her own request. As this report was being filed, Genevieve finally got her child’s birth certificate from her estranged husband and she was finally headed back home with more hope and optimism to begin a new life using the support extended to her by CHTEA.
Genevieve’s is a showcase for the high cost associated with counter human trafficking interventions. Simple as it may seem, this case has cost CHTEA in excess of KES100,000 (US$ 1,000). It presents a master piece of how complex human trafficking/modern day slavery cases can get……a depiction of how normalcy in life can be abused by traffickers, trafficking networks and the merchants of absurdity.
Genevieve and her baby finally got back home in Bujumbura, Burundi in early November 2020
Note: The name used is not real to protect the identity of the victim