(See a video clip at the bottom)
Child trafficking has taken a dramatic turn in Kenya over the last six months of 2021. There are more reports of children being lost without a trace, abductions, executions and even organ harvesting. This is a new development, considering that Kenya has had a fairly good and robust law that safeguards, prevents and protects children from or against any form of harm or violence.
As security agencies endevour to crack down on perpetrators, the society has had to deal with this unprecedented situation. Communities and especially those living within the urban poor neighborhoods have found themselves under siege from the “faceless” child targeting perpetrators who take advantage of huge populations mainly surviving on shoe string budgets to fend for their families.
According to the Daily Nation newspaper published in Nairobi on 13th July, one family in Nairobi’s Zimmerman estate has been living in agony for a month now after their 14-year-old son, Abraham Nhial, disappeared without a trace on June 5. Nhial went out to get a haircut during the recent school midterm break and was not seen again, said his father, Daniel Mawut.
A few metres away, the family of a three-year-old Franklin Gicheru is desperately searching for the boy, who vanished on June 22 after breakfast. Franklin’s parents James Mwangi and Loise Mwangi are in agony over his kidnapping in broad daylight. On the fateful day, James said he was notified by a neighbor that his son was seen walking away with an unknown woman. The neighbor thought she was a relative of the family.
The two disappearances were two weeks apart, but many more children have vanished leaving families in anguish. At least 61 children were reported missing between March and May 2021.
Although some 33 were found, with the whereabouts of the rest unknown, Missing Child Kenya, a non-governmental organisation, says there’s growing concern that a criminal network could be stealing the children.
More disturbing, however, is that the perpetrators of these abductions, torture and murders have also increasingly been targeting defenseless children. The fears are not misplaced given the horrific ending to the kidnap and murder in May of eight-year-old Shantel Nzembi. The girl was kidnapped in Kitengelain Kajiado County. Her abductors demanded Sh300,000 in ransom. The family contacted police only for the girl to be found dead days later.
In June, 11-year-old Priscilla Naserian, from Kajiado, went missing. Her body was later found dumped in a bush a few kilometres from her home.
Early July, 2021 in Moi’s Bridge, Eldoret, Linda Cherono, 13, who had been missing for several days, was found murdered. In Kasarani, Githurai and Zimmerman (Nairobi suburbs), victims who have been rescued and other eyewitnesses describe a woman reported to be luring the children with goodies. Families are so desperately poor that a child can easily be lured for a few sweets or a soda.
According to the Daily Nation newspaper report however, aggrieved parties are taking to social media to report the missing loved ones instead of taking such reports to the police. This makes follow ups difficult and reduces the chances of tracking down perpetrators who are known to use technology to communicate with relatives of the children.
At least 242 children aged 18 and below were reported missing between January and December 2020, the report by Missing Child Kenya said – 125 girls and 117 boys. Some of them were found and reunited with their families, while others were taken to government shelters. A few were found dead while others are still missing.
“A total of 131 children were found and reunited with their families, 16 have recently been found, 10 were found dead while 18 are still missing,” the report said. From 2016 to 2020, a total of 780 children were reported missing. Of those, 496 were found and reunited with their loved ones, 73 were taken to government-run children’s homes, 21 were found dead and 190 were still missing.
The report comes a few weeks after the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) cautioned parents to monitor how their children use social media and the people they interact with. In a statement in June 2021, the DCI alerted parents about human traffickers targeting young girls to sell as sex slaves: “Sex traffickers have come up with a new technique of kidnapping and targeting teenage school-going girls or those who have just completed their secondary education” “The crooks lure the young girls on social media where they access their personal details before enticing them into a trap,” the statement read.
Prosecution and Convictions
Even as the effort to apprehend perpetrators of child trafficking continues, the Kenyan Security agencies have made gains through arrests, prosecution and conviction of the offenders. For example, the correctional services at the Naivasha maximum prison allowed media access to document some of the jailed perpetrators who spoke about their underworld illegal trade in children. The prison’s authorities also shared their experience with the media regarding how traffickers operate in total disguise with respect to their true identity.
You can watch HERE the video clip.