Tanzania: The Mwanza Regional Police holding Dianna Edward Bundala (Emerald King) on ​​a charge of human trafficking and exploitation.

While addressing the media on 26th February 2022 in Buguku Street, Buhongwa Ward, Nyamagana District, the Mwanza Regional Police reported the arrest of Dianna Edward Bundala, 39 years, a resident of Buguku – Buhongwa for the offence of trafficking about 149 human beings.

The victims were reported to have been transported from various places before she locked them up at her home where they lived. Among them were 57 men, 92 women and 24 children (estimated to be aged between 4-17 years). The children were reported to have been removed from various schools. The suspected trafficker is said to have been convincing her subject that she was indeed a god who heals, resurrects people and solves their problems.

Earlier on 23rd February 2022, the police received an order from the Mwanza Mkuyuni Magistrate’s Court seeking for the arrest of one the children’s biological mother, Samir Ally Abbas. In fulfillment of the order, the police visited the home of the suspected trafficker where it was alleged that the mother of the said child was also present.

When the police arrived at the scene, the suspected trafficker led her followers to attack the police and prevent them from carrying out their duty. The police left but returned later and successfully arrested the trafficker as per the magistrate’s order.

The police commenced deeper investigation of the accused and the accomplices in order to prefer appropriate charges, if found culpable. The Police called on citizens to stop using the shadow of religion to deceive and traffic their followers (especially when they have social problems such as diseases and difficult living conditions).


This is a caption of the Mwanza Police boss giving a public statement regarding the arrest of Dianna Bundala ‘Aka’ Mfalme Zumaridi who had camouflaged as a preacher and leader of the Zumaridi church in Mwanza. The wording is in Kiswahili language.

 

COUNTER HUMAN TRAFFICKING – What fish can do

It was very clear to me that the young woman who came into our office was in great distress.  As we introduced ourselves to each other and Lily began to talk – slowly at first – then most of it flowed out in copious tears.  I realized that the “Beirut Blast” in August, 2020 had taken a terrible toll on her life.  After a painful separation from her husband because of infidelity in July, 2018, she left for ‘greener pastures’ in the Lebanon.  She trusted that her 10 year old daughter would be safe with her mother.

Life was hard in Lebanon and Lily was forced in her own words “to do the work of three people” But she decided not to complain and it was extremely painful when she learned that the first 3 months of her salary was ‘directed’ to her airfare, then from the fourth month she received less than half of what was promised.  At times she felt angry as most days she was on her feet for 18 – 20 hours or more in  back-breaking drudgery.  As the family she worked for gave her no day off she said “I was driven like a slave” (I nodded in agreement).  Some days prior to the blast, Lily felt she could take no more and decided to escape, but life on the streets of Beirut, the capital city was a different kind of nightmare.   She joined some Kenyan women who had an equally checkered history of life in Beirut as homeless African women.  They all slept in one room and took turns that one waited behind to care for the children, while others worked in various casual jobs during the day.

One night when all the women went out as ‘ladies of the night’ while all the children were sleeping, Lily was dragged out by a group of young men who kicked in the door and she was savagely raped by the gang.  She said “I went in and out of consciousness” At that point I was not surprised that she had terrible dreams and nightmares.  With the help of a skilled Psychiatrist, cum PhD in Clinical Psychology, she healed eventually.  But these terrible memories of her experience remain part of her life story.   After the blast, people of various nations received some form of assistance from their embassies but Kenyans did not.  So they got together and decided to storm their embassy – at least 129 of them received tickets to return home.

A New Chapter in her Life

Thankfully, Lily was among those repatriated and came to our office three weeks later.  To add to all the woes in her life at that moment, she suspected that she might be pregnant.  If I could come with her to the hospital she agreed to go and find out the truth.  She shed many tears when the result read Positive, but she bravely told herself and me “it’s not the fault of this baby”.  Now more than ever Lily needed all our support.  As with most victims/survivors of trafficking, she had multiple needs to help to heal and restore her back to life.

Together with her medical care, counseling, housing and livelihood, we felt happy that since she had experience in selling fried fish at the market, we felt confident with her that it would be a good choice to sustain her both in the long and short term no matter where she set up house in Kenya.  But in the current sharp downturn in the economic situation, her sales were slow and the fish proved a disaster!!  Reason? She became inconsolable being forced one evening to throw her precious commodity to stray dogs.  Next day she requested to come to our office, she had spotted a small secondhand freezer for Euro 100.00 (twelve and a half thousand KHS) in the market – however she was halting in her enthusiasm and said “but, Sr Mary, you have done so much for me” I did not hesitate for a moment and suggested we purchase it and have a man pulling a cart (mkokoteni) to take it to her home.  From that time her project has gone from strength to strength.  On a good day her income can be Euro 25.00 or just Euro 6.00, if customers are few. She has been able to take her first born girl to high school using the same business income.

“My Beautiful Lebanese Daughter”

In June, 2021, Lily gave birth to a Baby girl, she called me to say “I have a beautiful Lebanese daughter” Only a woman of extraordinary courage and a heart full of forgiveness could make such a statement.  Of the months of counseling she said:  “only for this gift of counseling and the means of livelihood, I could never have coped so well and be where I am today” Her 12 year old firstborn (girl) is now ready to join First Year in secondary school shortly, it will be a good test of her ability to cope with these extra expenses. We wish her well and are here to support her.

The “fairy tale” of Marion, a Ugandan survivor rescued from Garissa

“A call one early morning from my elder sister who worked for a Somali family in Nairobi change my moods for the day as I anticipated to turn around the financial fortunes of my life”, ‘Marion’ a rescued Ugandan survivor recalls to this interviewer. Marion’s sister has worked for the same family since 2019. The family had asked Marion’s sister if she could bring another Ugandan lady to work as a house help for a related family at a far-flung location called Garissa.

Garissa is 367 kilometers north east of Nairobi. “I was quite hopeful that this new opportunity would greatly change the fortunes of my 5 children after I separated from my husband a few years earlier,” Marion continued to recall. She is the last born in a family of 9. Due to cultural and poverty related factors, Marion was married off at a tender age of 16 years and later, the husband married another wife and divorced her. She was forced to become the bread winner of her 5 children.

Due to the aforementioned challenges, Marion was convinced by her sister who was working in Nairobi to look for greener pastures in Kenya. The sister connected her to an employer at Garissa. “My movement costs were to be fully covered by the would-be employer,” Marion narrates. “I crossed the border on foot to avoid detection by border migration or security agents before I boarded a bus to Nairobi,” she concludes.

Upon arrival in Nairobi, Marion was received by her elder sister who briefed her about her would be employer’s location. She had to spend a night with her sister before leaving for Garissa the following day. The journey to Garissa was not without incidents but what stuck on her mind was how after being stopped by police for questioning, her would be employer sorted the matter out within a short time and she proceeded with her journey. This was despite of lack of proper travel documentation.

To conceal the hidden intentions, her would be employer gave Marion a warm reception and she was introduced to the family members. The family to work for consisted of 12 people. On commencement, she was neither allowed to take a rest nor was she given off days. This was besides being denied food and freedom of movement. Marion was not allowed leave the compound of her employer and was threatened with dire consequences if she dared do so.  The employer did not even provide for her basic needs such as sanitary towels. Eventually, Marion fell sick due to fatigue and the mistreatment encountered. Her pleas to be taken to hospital fell on deaf ears. The employer also forced Marion to refund the money that was used to facilitate her travel from Uganda hence, it meant going without salary until the full amount was recovered. The employer also employed the threats of reporting her to the police station since she did not possess legal migration documents. They even went further to threaten her that she would be accused of stealing.

One week into the job, Marion decided to escape from the family to save her life. “I had no idea where I was in Garissa but I woke up one day and schemed how to leave the family” She dashed out of the gated compound in a blink of an eye and vanished into thin air. Marion decided to use the main road as she kept running as fast as her feet could take her while her heart pounded with great fear. After about 5 kilometers of intense running, her body slowed down and she begun walking briskly to fake confidence…..but it was quite easy to notice that she was a stranger from the majority of the population.

The epitome of human indignity

At one point, Marion decided to stop a boda boda (motor bike riders) to ask for direction to the nearest police station. She had decided to take herself to a police station and risk being arrested instead of risking her life at a brutal work environment.  While she was asking for directions, a relative of the employer spotted her and in turn called her employer.

Within a few minutes, the employer arrived with her car. Marion was forced to enter the private car but she refused upon which, all hell broke loose. She was undressed in public after the employer claimed that she was a thief. They searched all her belongings but nothing was found. One of the non-indigenous residents from the area and who happened to be a Community Health Volunteer (CHV) with some previous training on counter human trafficking happened to have been passing by and noticed the commotion. She confronted the employer and insisted that Marion should have been taken to a police station if they were accusing her of theft. After a long confrontation, the employer agreed and Marion was taken to the police station accompanied by the CHV.

Upon arrival at the police station, the police officers first arrested the employer but released her on cash bail and asked to report back the following morning. The CHV was asked to host Marion until the following morning when her case would be determined after recording statements. Before leaving the police station, Marion insisted that she needed to pursue justice due to her employer’s abuse, exploitation, shame and indignity meted out on her.

Elusive Justice

A phone call was immediately made to the Secretariat of the “Religious Against Human Trafficking” (RAHT) in Nairobi to report the matter who in turn informed CHTEA (a member of RAHT). The latter moved swiftly and engaged further with other key stakeholders who facilitated the movement of Marion from Garissa to a shelter in Nairobi.

The employer offered to give Marion 150 USD so as to drop any charges that she was filing against the employer. For confidential reasons (known to CHTEA), Marion accepted the money and dropped the charges against her employer.

Marion has since arrival in Nairobi from Garissa exhibited signs of severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) and has since been placed under the care of one of the best psycho-social therapy experts in Kenya. The journey towards full rehabilitation and reintegration has just begun.

CHTEA lures Tanzanian child traffickers into the hands of law enforcers

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

Another Darkness in Our World

Is it the dark side of the moon or what darkness am I reflecting on now?  We met a priest last week from DR Congo (DRC), he is a missionary in Bukavu, that side of DRC where the terrible volcanos are erupting right now, particularly in the area of Goma.  He came to visit us to learn more on how we started doing Counter Human Trafficking (CHT) work.  He even hinted that we might come and do the initial training. Fr Bernard is working with a group of local Sisters helping him to run a center for young girls, 250 of them who are very severely wounded in mind, body and spirit.  They are in a high state of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Not only is that country ruled by hundreds of militia groups but women and children are suffering the worst weapon of war which is sexual violence.  In fact he told us that it is hard to meet a young woman or girl child who has not met rape and defilement. I came away feeling very sad at one of the examples he shared with us, of a 5 year old girl “who is so damaged both internally and externally that she will never give birth” these were his words.  In the African context this is a curse the innocent little girl must live with, the hospital where she was taken did their best and she did survive but the real cost will fall on the most vulnerable in our society and the world at large. This is the kind of darkness I am sharing with you now.

Recently, I met an orphaned girl ‘Cindy’ who had just come back from the burial of her grandmother, she was an elderly lady almost 90 years old.  The story which emerged was as horrific as the act itself.  The pain, grief and loss coupled with the background of Cindy herself made this whole scenario even more intensely painful.  Cindy was orphaned of the only parent she can vaguely recall, then stayed with her grandmother till she was 12 years old.  Then she was sent to reside with an uncle and his wife in one of Nairobi’s largest slums.  The idea of the people in the far rural community was that she would get better educational opportunities in Nairobi.  His wife went to work early and this beastly relative choose to defile the unsuspecting, innocent 12 year old girl.  Minutes later ‘to add insult to injury’ he walked outside laughing to himself while Cindy picked herself up from the floor.  It was a major trauma to this child and a very dark shadow in her life.

Despite intensive counseling Cindy carries this dark scenario in her head – and it will never go away.  After that horrific assault Cindy gathered together her school books and uniform and left the one roomed shack which had been her home for the past month.  Where to go now?  she had no clue but definitely she was in no mood to face her school-going peers on that awful day.  So, she hired herself out as a domestic help to get odd jobs in whatever was available but it meant an end to formal class work.  Luckily, she met a community health volunteer of Medical Missionaries of Mary where MMM Sisters run a health center, one of them called Rose assured Cindy that she was always welcome to stay at her place and from time to time she took shelter there.

During the school holidays Cindy went to her grandmother, after all she was the only parent figure in her life.  When she returned from the burial of “my Granny” last week I could see that she was totally shattered, the big tears dropped like the onset of heavy rains here in Kenya.  Despite the great age of this elderly grandmother, she sold a cow that morning for KShs 14.000/- (125/- to one Euro), to send an orphaned granddaughter to F/1 (start of secondary school year).  She bought some shopping items for the girl and stuffed the balance inside her belt.  On the way home walking, she diverted into the forest to pick some small sticks for firewood.  That simple diversion resulted in her death – ‘Anna’ was robbed, raped and strangulated.  Next morning some children also on a short diversion to collect firewood, found her body. To those left behind especially Cindy, these are horrific details of the end of life of the woman she had known and loved so dearly.  It underlines again her own personal defilement at 12 years old, and knowing that this uncle still walks free.  Whoever is the man who snuffed out the life of an elderly grandmother may never be named.  Sadly, we live in a country where corruption is the order of the day.  There is nobody to follow-up or name and charge the man who murdered this brave woman in such a ruthless fashion.  We salute this extraordinary woman of courage, despite her advanced years, she valued the benefits of education for a child.  She had nurtured Cindy well, she also gave thanks to God each day that a Good Samaritan had come to her aid and taken her through secondary education.   Cindy was just one point short of university entrance but the same Good Samaritan also sent her on a fifteen month beauty course.  She has excelled in her theory and practical exams and values the highly marketable skills she now holds.  Now at 20 years old she is set to launch herself on a very worthwhile career.

Conclusion

Now with three stories rolled into one, we have seen very painful personal tragedies in the lives of the feminine gender.  Three females who have paid a very high price – and in extremes of age – between the 5 year old and the 90 year old.  Does our world have to be such a dark place?  What has gone so horribly wrong?  Have we spoken so much of the girl child to the detriment of the boy child that this insane and horrific violence is being played out so randomly and for no apparent provocation?  Has pornography almost completely overtaken our sexuality?  Just as sure that we have a Coronavirus pandemic there is a parallel pandemic in our midst – every bit as prevalent and transmissible as Covid-19.  Let’s arm ourselves to fight for our youth and all people who are easily lured and sucked into a vortex of ‘hell’ which can only further work to wreck more havoc in the lives of countless millions in every continent and small village.

 Mary O’ Malley, MMM

31st May, 2021

Covid-19: Reintegration of Victims of Sex Trafficking in Kenya

Sex trafficking is a particularly degrading form of human trafficking, defined generally as recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining either: (1) an adult for commercial sex by force, fraud or coercion, or (2) a juvenile for commercial sex, regardless of the means.

On 30thMay 2020, the Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Protection Unit (AHTCPU) raised a red flag over the alarming and sudden spike in online sex trafficking, recruitment and exploitation of children in Kenya, with concerns that the trends will continue for as long as children are at home and exploring the internet amidst online learning.[1]The Head of the AHTCPU, Mueni Mutisya was worried that after the President ordered the dusk to dawn curfew and cessation of movement, intelligence reports reveal that human traffickers are capitalizing on the online platform to recruit, groom and exploit children and lure adults feeling the pinch of the emaciated economy as a result of COVID-19. Recently, Mr. Thomas Sheller, a German, was charged with seven counts for sodomising four teenagers aged between 10 and 13 years in Kisumu and Nairobi.

Human trafficking is not a loud crime, and as such, victims rarely cry out for help, leaving many cases unnoticed.  Instead, victims of human trafficking are usually considered to be criminals owing to their illegal entry in destination states. If the plight of these victims is not addressed, they will continue to be dejected unto the abyss of the unknown. Protection of the victims is even more important now, as the world grapples with the scourge of the infectious disease, Covid-19, which has intensified the vulnerabilities exploited by human-traffickers.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Regional Advisor Rachel Harvey estimates that a third of internet users are children below 18 years with internet usage increasing by half (50%) following the stay- at- home orders adopted by most countries to help suppress the spread of COVID-19. Harvey warning that it has put children at risk of online sexual exploitation. Harvey cautions that before COVID-19, it was estimated that they were 750,000 people looking to connect for with children for sexual purposes online at any one time. With limited physical interaction, global trends further single out increased and growing demand for child abuse material. This has given traffickers opportunities to devise new venues of animating the ‘lucrative’ business of sex trafficking/tourism by leveraging on the online space to prey on susceptible and unwitting users.

Sex trafficking continues to occur across the globe at an increasingly alarming rate. Despite misconceptions that sex trafficking requires transportation across State or country borders, the majority of victims are domestically trafficked within their own country by persons of the same nationality.

Reintegration

It involves taking the VOT back to his/her community/society. Return and re-integration can be both in-country for victims of internal trafficking and out of country for victims of international trafficking. The purpose of this process is to foster, nurture and strengthen the rehabilitation process of the victim into his/her community or host community so as to live a normal life. Family tracing, verification and reunification should only take place after the victim has undergone the reflection and recovery period. Support is to be given to victims from the time of being rescued to the time they are taken back to their families and monitoring done after they have been taken to their families and communities.

Factors to consider before reintegration

  • The best interest of the victim, taking into account his/her age, sex, security and disability;
  • Respect for the victim’s human rights and dignity throughout the process;
  • Obtaining the victim’s informed consent before reintegration;
  • Maintaining confidentiality at all times and disclosing information only on a need-to-know basis;
  • The cultural/religious values of the victim;
  • Developing an individual reintegration plan for each victim;
  • The medical condition of the victim;
  • Family tracing;
  • Family and community preparedness to receive the victim;
  • Availability of other service providers in the area that can assist the returned victim.

Human Trafficking: Kenya’s Legal Framework

National laws

Kenya has enacted a number of statutes to protect victims of sex trafficking

  • The Constitution of Kenya, 2010.
  • Children’s Act 2001 (under review).
  • Sexual Offences Act 2006
  • Kenya Information and Communications Act
  • The Victim Protection Act, 2014
  • Computer Misuse & Cybercrime Act 2018
  • Counter Trafficking In Persons Act, 2010
  • Data Protection Act, 2019
  • Film and Stage Plays Act

The Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act provides detailed assistance, structures and funds for victims of trafficking.  Section 15 provides for the following: return to and from Kenya, resettlement, re-integration, appropriate shelter and other basic needs, psychosocial support, appropriate medical assistance, legal assistance or legal information, including information on the relevant judicial and administrative proceedings and any other necessary assistance that a victim may require. However, there is need for adequate mechanisms as discussed herein to be put in place by government and stakeholders to ensure that the law is fully implemented. The Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act too, provides a framework to guide and create awareness creation and development of standards for all stakeholders.

Chapter 4 of the Constitution on the Bill of Rights contains fundamental rights and freedoms, some of which can be the basis for protecting the victims of trafficking in persons. These include the right to life;[2] equality and freedom from discrimination[3] right to human dignity; protection against slavery, servitude and forced labor and freedom of movement and residence and protection of victims of offenses.

Article 59 (2) (g) under this Chapter also sets up a Commission that promotes, respects and develops a culture of human rights in Kenya. One of the principal functions is to ensure compliance with obligations under treaties and conventions relating to human rights.

All the above rights cover a cross-section of abuses that are notorious with the acts of sex trafficking and human trafficking generally; such as, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, discrimination, restriction of movement and many are killed as a result of violence or from diseases incurred from their sexual victimization.

Current Practice and gaps

Law Enforcement effort

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) – Anti Human Trafficking and Child Protection Unit is part of a Multisectoral Technical Working Group on Online Child Protection with the aim of strengthening collaboration among state and non-state actors working in online child protection.

Establishment of the DCI Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Protection Unit which has a specialized Cyber division dealing with Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation (OCSE).  It refers to crimes committed by offenders who use internet to facilitate the sexual abuse of children. They do so by:

  • investigation and prosecution of online offenders
  • Receives cybertiplines from National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. (The nation’s centralized reporting system for the online exploitation of children).
  • victim support
  • Sharing of information (via linkage to Interpol).
  • Hosts Internet Watch Foundation reporting portal launched on 27th January 2021. A new reporting portal will provide a direct link to Kenyan law enforcement to report criminal images and videos of child sexual abuse to expert analysts to support them in their fight again online child sexual exploitation.

The Government of Kenya does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of sex trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government has demonstrated overall increasing efforts which include significantly increasing the number of victims identified, utilizing the victim assistance fund, launching a cyber-crime center to investigate child sexual exploitation and child sex trafficking cases, enhancing law enforcement coordination with other countries on trafficking cases, and improving efforts to regulate recruitment agencies and support and protect migrant workers.

However, the government reported a decrease in investigations, prosecutions, and convictions. Kenyan authorities continued to treat some victims as criminals and the availability of protective services for adult and foreign national victims remained inadequate, which contributed to quick repatriation of foreign victims due to lack of available shelters. The government also sometimes tried trafficking cases as immigration or labor law violations rather than crimes under the anti-trafficking law, which resulted in traffickers receiving less stringent sentences. The Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act continued to allow fines in lieu of imprisonment for sex trafficking offenses which remained incommensurate with other serious crimes.

In Kenya, under the Constitution 2010, Article 49(1) (H) provides that all offenses are bailable unless there are compelling reasons for the accused person not to be released. In practice, some sexual offenders are usually released on bail, putting the victim’s security at risk and some have ended up being killed. Further, the judiciary sometimes take long to hear such matters and the more they take long the more the victims of sexual violence get traumatized.

It is important to note that in some cultures it is still a taboo to talk about issues of sexual violence hence some sex trafficked victims choose to keep quiet.

Victims of sex trafficking face major problems in being reintegrated into their home communities when they are freed from the situation into which they were trafficked. They include: Social stigma, bullying, rejection, trauma etc. The government and organizations of goodwill have developed some procedures and standards as they work.

Meaningful reintegration requires a lot of time and financial resources. Most organizations operate on a limited budget and a fixed time frame dependent on donor requirements. Before a survivor of trafficking is taken back to her/his family and community, there is need to take care of her/his well being which includes medical care, counseling and some finances to help her/him begin a better life. Residential assistance requires well trained and competent staff and a budget for operational costs. Some survivors may have complex cases especially where it is not safe for them to return to their homes. The process of looking for alternative living arrangement may take longer than the period funds are available for. Once a survivor has been taken to his/her original family and community there is need for regular follow-ups which must include home visits. The costs of doing follow-up may be out of reach for many organizations.

Reintegration programmes are yet to actively and meaningfully involve survivors of sex trafficking, their families and communities in the whole programme cycle. Programmes go through inception, planning, implementation and evaluation with the input from the government, organizations and their donors.

A rising number of girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo are turning to the sex trade as COVID-19 deepens desperation

According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the Covid-19 situation ushered in extreme conditions which in effect pushed child trafficking into new levels than ever seen before at the Democratic Republic of Congo. The country has had to contend with:

  • Rising food prices as night-time curfew deepen hardships
  • Teenagers, street children forced into sex work to survive and,
  • Authorities say lack resources to tackle underage sex work

When Naomie’s mother asked the teenager to join her as a sex worker in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo last September, she knew it was a matter of survival for the family.

The fallout from the coronavirus pandemic – from rising food prices to a curfew resulting in fewer clients for her mother -left the 15-year-old with no choice but to take to the streets.

“I am fatherless, and I have an eight-year-old brother,” Naomie – whose name has been changed to protect her identity – said one evening this month in the Tshangu district of Kinshasa.

“If I don’t do this, my family may perish because we have no one to support us,” she said while seeking clients on Kimbuta Avenue – well-known for prostitution – with a cigarette in hand.

Naomie is one of countless girls in Kinshasa – a megalopolis of more than 12 million people – to have joined the sex trade during the last year because of the pandemic, campaigners said.

About three-quarters of Congo’s 90 million people live in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 a day, and the African Development Bank has said its economy – a key global exporter of cobalt and copper – could be particularly hard hit by COVID-19.

The sprawling central African country has confirmed at least 28,845 cases of the virus, of which about 712 have died.

“A lot of girls around my age are working here (in the sex trade),” Naomie added. “I see new faces all the time.”

SOCIAL CRISIS

Girls who have turned to sex work to help their families find themselves competing for clients with street children. Prior to the pandemic, there were an estimated 20,000 such children – known as “Shegues” – in the city. Most of them resort to begging and prostitution to get by and must pay a cut of their earnings to criminal networks who control the sex trade.

For many girls – homeless or not – the sex trade is now the only viable source of income, said Jean Kalala, vice-president of REEJER, a network of caseworkers that helps street children.

“Extreme poverty and a lack of education push many young girls into prostitution because they don’t know what to do,” Kalala told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

“These underage sex workers are the consequences of the social crisis that is raging in Congo,” he added, referring to the impact of coronavirus on people’s livelihoods nationwide.

While prostitution is legal in Congo, having sex with a girl under the age of 18 or running a child prostitution ring are crimes punishable by between five and 20 years in prison.

A senior official at the Ministry of Gender, Family and Children, Florence Boloko, said there were insufficient resources and limited scope to tackle underage prostitution.

“We only work during the day,” said Boloko, director of the National Agency Against Violence to Women and Girls (AVIFEM).

“At night, we do not know how to dismantle the networks … (or) track down these girls, and all these men (the buyers).”

‘EASY PREY’

For 17-year-old Vanessa, who joined the sex trade in Kinshasa two years ago, the pandemic has “destroyed her work”.

Her earnings have fallen by half to about 10,000 Congolese francs ($5) a night, and she blames the rising number of young sex workers and a daily coronavirus curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Vanessa said she wanted to leave the trade, but did not know how else she would earn money. She had considered paying smugglers to help her reach Europe but decided against it.

Girls such as Vanessa and Naomie must deal with gangs who offer them “protection” in return for a cut of their earnings.

Naomie said the man she worked under managed 20 girls and visited her each night to take about one sixth of her earnings.

Christophe Diakonda, a police commander at nearby Sonapangu station, said that officers frequently arrested such gang members – known as “Kuluna” – but needed more support from the government to tackle the issue of young girls in the sex trade.

“Regarding underage sex workers … we are awaiting the government’s impetus to boost the operation to stop this,” he added. One of his colleagues said the girls were “stubborn” and resisted police efforts to deter them from the sex trade.

As more girls take to the streets – where some are pressured to have sex without a condom and many turn to alcohol or drugs – campaigners said they were concerned for their health.

“They become easy prey for men who abuse them,” said Annie Bambe, president of the NGO Forum for Youth and Children’s Rights in Congo. “They often have unprotected sex with the little money they are given … we fear a lot for their future.”

Having left school at 13, Naomie would like to return to education or train as a seamstress – but cannot afford to do so.

“We do this (sex work) to earn a living,” she said. “The country has abandoned us.”

The Cry of Colly, a Kenyan Survivor

Colly was first introduced to a recruitment agent by her friend and she was promised a well-paying job in Dubai. After paying the money that was required to process her travel documents to Dubai, the agent did not get in touch with her again. She was then connected to another agent by the same friend. After recruitment, she went for a two weeks’ training at Syokimau. The agent facilitated her medical checkup and also paid for her ticket to Saudi Arabia.

Upon arrival in Saudi Arabia, she was received by a driver who took her to the Saudi agent’s office. Her employer then came for her and took her to his residence. Afterwards, she was introduced to the family members and she was promised a nice working environment. They allowed her to rest on the first day; before starting to work the following day. During the first month, they treated her nicely but on the second month, her employer (the man) started harassing her sexually. She continually refused to yield to his sexual advances but one day, she was left alone in the house (but with the same man around). The man pointed a gun at her and forcefully raped her. He then forced her to clean the blood that was on the floor. She was threatened not to say anything otherwise; she would be killed. When the rest of the family returned, she requested to be taken to the hospital claiming she was not feeling well. At the hospital, she explained her ordeal at the house but she was told that she could not be assisted without evidence. “I was told that in order to get evidence, I had to go back and be raped again”. She refused to go back with the family and she was taken to the agent’s office. However, the same employer went back for her and took her to the same house where she was beaten thoroughly by the lady of the house. Once again, the man of the house got another opportunity and raped her and made her to go through the same pain and trauma.

“I recorded a video of the rape incident and sent it out to my brother in Kenya who then shared it with my recruitment agency in Kenya and who in turn forwarded the same to the agency in Saudi Arabia but who did not take any action.”  

Afterwards, Colly secretly escaped from the house one evening and returned to the office once more.  Unfortunately, she was locked up in isolation at the office where she was continuously assaulted physically. The office manager in Saudi continued asking her to return to the same employer in order for her to finish the contract. He pushed her to accept and went further to threaten her with death, if she refused.

After some few days, a brother to her former employer went to the office and took her in. She was deceived that the new family had four children only. To her surprise, when she arrived at the house, she was introduced to 26 people who were all family members. She was also given strict rules………. she was not supposed to drink tap water and that she was only meant to eat food left-overs. At one point, she was found drinking tap water and she was beaten up thoroughly. She was also overworked and made to sleep at 4am and wake up at 6am (hardly three hours).

Colly tried calling the Saudi and Kenya offices for help but she was not successful. One day, one of the sons of her employer came to her bedroom and wanted to abuse her sexually. She screamed for help and when the family members came, they all blamed it on her. Her employer was so bitter with her that the following day her food was laced with poison. She was discretely warned by one of the little children after taking a spoon hence, she secretly threw away the rest of the food. She however developed stomach upset immediately. She took pictures of the poisoned food and sent them back home and shortly afterwards, she escaped from the house and went a human rights office from where she was then taken to hospital. After diagnosis, she was informed that her liver had been affected by the poison.

Afterwards, she was taken to court to complain against her employer. All the while, she insisted to be taken back home (Kenya). After reporting to the court, she went back to the office where they tried to get rid of her by burning the room where she was locked in. She was lucky to escape with the help of a guard and she ended up on the streets. On her escape journey, she met a well-wisher from the human rights office and after explaining her situation, he agreed to pay for her ticket alongside other girls from Kenya.

Colly returned back with nothing to show and she is currently not in good terms with her family members after the video which she sent home went viral. She has been living with a male ‘well-wisher’ who has been ‘accommodating’ her since February 2021 (when she arrived back in Kenya). Gaging from the interview discussions, Colly is deeply traumatized and the alleged well-wisher has his full control on her life which is equivalent to secondary level exploitation/enslavement (the feeling of dependency is very high).

Colly continues to suffer severe post-traumatic stress disorder alongside a complex health condition caused by the brutality of the beastly sexual abuse ordeal. She urgently needs both psychiatric and psychosocial support too. She also complains of stomach pains associated with her liver infection occasioned by the attempted food poisoning. Colly has not yet received any tangible support from CHTEA owing to funding shortage.

We invite any well wisher to make a donation towards this desperate case and others who are still struggling with post exploitation abuse. All amounts of contribution (in any form of currency would be highly welcome). May God bless work of your hands while giving.

Can you give $20 support towards Colly’s rehabilitation and integration? 

The Cry of Colly, a Kenyan Survivor

Colly was first introduced to a recruitment agent by her friend and she was promised a well-paying job in Dubai. After paying the money that was required to process her travel documents to Dubai, the agent did not get in touch with her again. She was then connected to another agent by the same friend. After recruitment, she went for a two weeks’ training at Syokimau. The agent facilitated her medical checkup and also paid for her ticket to Saudi Arabia.

Upon arrival in Saudi Arabia, she was received by a driver who took her to the Saudi agent’s office. Her employer then came for her and took her to his residence. Afterwards, she was introduced to the family members and she was promised a nice working environment. They allowed her to rest on the first day; before starting to work the following day. During the first month, they treated her nicely but on the second month, her employer (the man) started harassing her sexually. She continually refused to yield to his sexual advances but one day, she was left alone in the house (but with the same man around). The man pointed a gun at her and forcefully raped her. He then forced her to clean the blood that was on the floor. She was threatened not to say anything otherwise; she would be killed. When the rest of the family returned, she requested to be taken to the hospital claiming she was not feeling well. At the hospital, she explained her ordeal at the house but she was told that she could not be assisted without evidence. “I was told that in order to get evidence, I had to go back and be raped again”. She refused to go back with the family and she was taken to the agent’s office. However, the same employer went back for her and took her to the same house where she was beaten thoroughly by the lady of the house. Once again, the man of the house got another opportunity and raped her and made her to go through the same pain and trauma.

“I recorded a video of the rape incident and sent it out to my brother in Kenya who then shared it with my recruitment agency in Kenya and who in turn forwarded the same to the agency in Saudi Arabia but who did not take any action.”  

Afterwards, Colly secretly escaped from the house one evening and returned to the office once more.  Unfortunately, she was locked up in isolation at the office where she was continuously assaulted physically. The office manager in Saudi continued asking her to return to the same employer in order for her to finish the contract. He pushed her to accept and went further to threaten her with death, if she refused.

After some few days, a brother to her former employer went to the office and took her in. She was deceived that the new family had four children only. To her surprise, when she arrived at the house, she was introduced to 26 people who were all family members. She was also given strict rules………. she was not supposed to drink tap water and that she was only meant to eat food left-overs. At one point, she was found drinking tap water and she was beaten up thoroughly. She was also overworked and made to sleep at 4am and wake up at 6am (hardly three hours).

Colly tried calling the Saudi and Kenya offices for help but she was not successful. One day, one of the sons of her employer came to her bedroom and wanted to abuse her sexually. She screamed for help and when the family members came, they all blamed it on her. Her employer was so bitter with her that the following day her food was laced with poison. She was discretely warned by one of the little children after taking a spoon hence, she secretly threw away the rest of the food. She however developed stomach upset immediately. She took pictures of the poisoned food and sent them back home and shortly afterwards, she escaped from the house and went a human rights office from where she was then taken to hospital. After diagnosis, she was informed that her liver had been affected by the poison.

Afterwards, she was taken to court to complain against her employer. All the while, she insisted to be taken back home (Kenya). After reporting to the court, she went back to the office where they tried to get rid of her by burning the room where she was locked in. She was lucky to escape with the help of a guard and she ended up on the streets. On her escape journey, she met a well-wisher from the human rights office and after explaining her situation, he agreed to pay for her ticket alongside other girls from Kenya.

Colly returned back with nothing to show and she is currently not in good terms with her family members after the video which she sent home went viral. She has been living with a male ‘well-wisher’ who has been ‘accommodating’ her since February 2021 (when she arrived back in Kenya). Gaging from the interview discussions, Colly is deeply traumatized and the alleged well-wisher has his full control on her life which is equivalent to secondary level exploitation/enslavement (the feeling of dependency is very high).

Colly continues to suffer severe post-traumatic stress disorder alongside a complex health condition caused by the brutality of the beastly sexual abuse ordeal. She urgently needs both psychiatric and psycho-social support too. She also complains of stomach pains associated with her liver infection occasioned by the attempted food poisoning. Colly has not yet received any tangible medical and livelihood support from CHTEA owing to funding shortage.

We invite  well wishers to make  donations towards this desperate case and others who are still struggling with post exploitation effects. Any amounts of contribution (in any form of currency) would be highly welcome and appreciated. May God bless the work of your hands while giving. You can DONATE here

Migrants in the Arab states sent home over $124 billion in 2017, with UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar all in the top 10.

From beatings to unpaid wages, migrant workers face regular abuse in the Gulf – with hundreds of African workers forcibly deported from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) earlier this year.

Several of the deportees told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that they are struggling back homewith their past obliterated and no papers or money to start over.

Workers from Uganda, Nigeria, and Cameroon said they could not secure backpay, compensation for personal belongings they were barred from retrieving before deportation, or even an official answer on the cause of detention.

Here’s a rundown of the main reasons why it is so hard to secure protection for some 23 million migrants working in the Gulf:

  • Kafala System

The lack of justice for migrants can be traced back to “kafala” sponsorship system that ties a worker’s visa to their employer, seen by rights groups as modern-day slavery. It is used across most of the Gulf, where growing numbers are flocking from East Africa to construction, hospitality, and security jobs.

Many work in unsafe or abusive environments, others suffer restrictions on their movements or communications, and some are jailed or deported – typically for residency violations but sometimes without a declared reason.

“Kafala is at the root of this. It essentially means impunity for abuses against workers,” said Rothna Begum, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch.

If an employer fires a worker or reports them as “absconding”, that employee could face detention and deportation with no access to a lawyer, according to Migrant-Rights.org, a Gulf-based advocacy organization for migrant workers.

  • Fear Of Deportation

The risk of being sent home empty-handed makes most workers reluctant to speak up, said Malcolm Bidali, a Kenyan working as a security guard in Qatar until his deportation in August 2021.

“The fear (is) that you might get sent back home, back to all the problems and hardships, that you might not even get justice if you raise your voice,” he said.

Even countries dismantling parts of the kafala system, like Qatar, maintain some restrictions on changing jobs or bans on migrant labour unions, according to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, which promotes human rights in business.

  • Undemocratic Regimes

Migrants in the Gulf work under largely undemocratic authorities that do not prioritise civic rights: many are monarchies that do not hold elections and do not tolerate public criticism.

“We’re talking about countries with zero transparency,” said Ali Mohamed, a researcher at Migrant-Rights.org. 

“How can you do anything when there is no democratic transparent process?”

The ministries of interior or defence often have greater political weight than labour ministries, which means worker issues are frequently resolved through security measures like detentions and deportations.

“In Gulf countries, ‘interior’ is the mother of all ministries. They are under the least pressure to implement any reforms,” said Mohamed.

  • Few Rights Advocates In Country

Major rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, do not have a physical presence in most Gulf countries, where they say they would not be able to work freely.

Workers deported from the UAE after June said even Emirati lawyers, they hired had been able to get few answers.

“There’s a hesitancy by local lawyers to take on cases. People who get detained en masse are low-income migrant workers – so lawyers know it’s hard to reverse a ruling of deportation and it won’t pay much,” Mohamed said.

  • No Help From Home

Migrants said their own embassies had not pushed hard enough to get them out of jail or prevent the deportations.

“When you get back home, who will fight for you? No one,” asked Bidali, who has been desperately searching for a job since he was deported to Kenya.

Some countries do act. Ethiopia in 2013 banned its nationals from doing low-skilled jobs in the Middle East following widespread reports of abuse.

But with massive unemployment at home and thousands still finding ways to migrate, it lifted the ban in 2018 after passing a law aimed at better protecting migrant workers.

Bans ultimately fail because recruiting companies can always turn to regions with fewer regulations and even cheaper labour, said Begum, creating “a race to the bottom”.

  • Money Talks

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), migrants in the Arab states sent home over $124 billion in 2017, with UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar all in the top 10. Money that workers send home from abroad is one of the largest sources of foreign exchange for many countries – vital for trading with the rest of the world.

“This is a power dynamic,” said Begum of Human Rights Watch.

“Countries of origin simply don’t have the same leverage when speaking to host countries, as they are quite reliant on remittances.”