Emmanuel, aged 14 years is a disabled minor from Tanzania who was lured and trafficked from Shinyanga. At his age, he has never been to school. According to his own account, Emmanuel was lured by a lady through his uncle. The alleged lady trafficker was well known to his uncle and she had promised to educate Emmanuel besides offering to give him a good life in Nairobi, Kenya. On arrival at Nairobi, the trafficker deserted Emmanuel at a popular bus terminus called the Machakos bust station. Upon realizing that his would be guardian was not returning after faking that she was going to the washrooms, Emmanuel decided to crawl to a safe ground on a verandah along the nearest street to take some rest from the scorching sun.
It was during this time while Emmanuel was resting at the verandah nearby market that a different lady approached him and tried to find out how she could help him. After listening to the boy’s plight, the lady offered to go with him to her place of abode and provide him with shelter and food. The new stranger also promised to take Emmanuel to school, he little realized that she was part of a complex network of traffickers (both Kenyans and Tanzanians). These cruel individuals traffick disabled persons (both children and adults) to Kenyan towns for begging purposes. This phenomenon has turned out to be a big industry in Kenya where the general Kenyan public ‘giving spirit’ is considered to be highest in the East African region. This originates from the “Harambee” philosophy which was adopted immediately after Independence as a catalyst for communal projects where the public were asked to give donations for the public good. Many schools and health centers were constructed through communal giving to take care of local projects. Therefore, this was a well calculated move to confuse the young Emmanuel. He gladly accepted the new offer and she took him to her house at Shauri Moyo, a poor neighborhood in Nairobi.
Forced labor – a beggar in Nairobi
After two days of rest, the young Emmanuel was summoned by the same would-be guardian (the woman) and given instructions to move to the city on a daily basis and beg with a target of five thousand shillings (USD $50) a day. This was a condition in order for him to continue being hosted by his new “master”. Whenever he didn’t manage to hit the target as required by his host, he was assaulted, denied food and psychologically tormented by the alleged host. The exploitation went on until Emmanuel could no longer bear with the demands, hence he contemplated escaping at the earliest possible opportunity.
Early one morning after he was released to head towards his usual beginning street, he decided to take a different direction and headed towards another expansive slum called Mukuru. While loitering there, he was noticed by a community volunteer who happened to have received training from CHTEA. After a screening exercise, the volunteer contacted a CHTEA officer who validated the assessment report and classified Emmanuel as a case of cross border child trafficking. Emmanuel was immediately removed from the slum and placed at a protection center outside of Nairobi from where the process of court committal documentation was commenced to facilitate repatriation. The court committal process was handled by a Government Children’s Officer.
The child trafficking ring
In a surprise turn of events, on the day that the young Emmanuel was to be taken to the court for committal orders, the CHTEA officer accompanying the Children Officer received a call from an unknown caller who identified himself as a Police Officer based at a police station in Eastern Nairobi. The caller further claimed that he was in the company of another three men who were supposedly relatives of the young Emmanuel. The whole team of four would later turn out to be part of the trafficking ring based in Nairobi. The caller asked the CHTEA officer to hand over Emmanuel to them as one of them claimed to be his uncle who had brought him to Nairobi. The caller further claimed that Emmanuel had got lost while at his custody as he played with other children in Eastlands. The discussion ended up with a fake arrangement for Emmanuel to be handed over at a designated local administrator’s office.
After brief internal consultations, the CHTEA head office swung into action and immediately alerted the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (Child Protection Unit) who dispatched two police officers to accompany the CHTEA Officer to meet the masquerading group. When they arrived at the designated meeting point, all the four men were already there waiting to be handed over the trafficked boy. The two police officers camouflaged themselves and asked that they be refunded for the expenses of the Emmanuel’s upkeep before they could release him. The traffickers further alleged that the young Emmanuel was a nephew to one of them. The alleged police officer turned out to be real and that he was offering protection to the real traffickers.
At the local administrator’s office, the masquerading group was patiently waiting for Emmanuel’s hand over. The police officers claimed that they had spent a lot of money to keep the boy and that they needed a refund. The request was immediately accepted by asking how much the boy’s upkeep had costed. In a flash of a second, the three masqueraders found themselves under arrest alongside their police protector. On a quick search, they were found with loads of coins (signifying that they were the actual exploiters….as most of the beggars receive much of their donations in coins).
The arrest of this group was a major success in dealing with the child trafficking rings spread across the East African region. Two of the suspects have since been arraigned in court and their case is proceeding at the Kenyan high court under the watchful eye of the Kenyan public and the media. The head of the Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Protection Unit (AHTCPU) of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, Madam Mueni Mutisya has since commended the efforts of CHTEA in enabling the arrest of the traffickers.
From other reliable sources, it was said that the same clique of traffickers had already trafficked four other disabled children from Tanzania. The DCI Officers are keenly investigating to get on the bottom of the story. Since the traffickers are from another country, this case will likely be handed over to the Transnational Organized Crime Unit (TOCU) to ensure that all those traffickers are handed down lengthy jail sentences of approximately 30 years.
Above left: 3 Tanzanians suspected of child trafficking during arrest.
Above right: Two of the suspects in court