, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 16 – The soul is willing but the body is weak.
It is a biblical saying that Nairobi’s street children live to validate every minute of their lives and still have to survive with the tag of criminals, chokoras and so on.
But their true tag should have been ‘children of Kenya’ who have been betrayed by the same society that should not only have protected them but shown them love. Instead, they have been profiled and blamed for their suffering.
Have you ever wondered who and what sustains their lifestyle?
As established by this Investigative piece, the hard drugs they use, the adhesive they inhale and other highly toxic substances are sold to them by people fit to be their parents.
To them, it is just another way of earning a living turning the children into ‘zombies’ and eventually death.
The piece also exposes painful experiences by the most vulnerable members of the street families; women and young boys.
While women and their daughters are raped by their own and other members of the society, we also interviewed young boys who have been sodomized by “the big boys (also street children)” and even after horrible experiences, to them, life continues.
They have resigned to fate. For example, one of the boys interviewed by the Capital FM Investigative team has an agonizing experience under the hands of the so-called “big boys”.
He has been sodomized three times, including a couple of days before we met him.
It is evident since he cannot walk well. He is in pain.
“Tunaumia sana; wengine wanauawa, kulala njaaa na hasa kushikwa shikwa kwa nguvu na hawa wakubwa kila wakati (We suffer a lot; some are killed, sleeping hungry and being sodomized all the time),” says one 14-year-old street boy in Nairobi.
Though in all the cases he was injected with a substance that made him lose consciousness, he knows what exactly happened.
“They come when we are sleeping, inject us with something and then continue to do the act,” he says as he continues to inhale some sticky substance.
“Ni uchungu sana (it is very painful).”
Going by the first two experiences, he says he will need close to a month to heal.
But the boy won’t go to a hospital; he cannot afford and it is evident during our interview that he does not know the possible health complications.
“Nikijisaidia natoa damu hadi sasa (I have been releasing blood while going to the toilet)” the teary boy said, posing as if in some deep thoughts before proceeding to sniff the substance in his bottle.
“All my friends have been sodomized,” he says before breaking down into tears.
– They deserve better –
Another boy and his four other colleagues were not comfortable being put on record because they fear their seniors.
“Tutachapwa (we will be beaten)” they said.
But admit that just like the other boy, they too have undergone the same ghastly experience.
“Tunajua hao. Huwa tunawaita mende…(we know them. We usually call them cockroaches), “one of the boys said.
When night falls, a sense of freedom comes, because the rest of the populace are away but it is laced with fear of what may befall them later at the wee hours, when they decide to take a nap.
Their tale and that of tens of other boys paints a picture of betrayal, pain, desperation and draws a sharp contrast between the haves and have not, in a country whose budget has hit the trillion shilling mark.
– It is in the streets that we get drugs –
It is about two years now but events of the fateful day when 24-year-old Solomon Gachanja almost lost his leg, which is now has a colossal wound, but the memories are still vivid, painfully so.
It happened along River Road within Nairobi downtown, where members of the public almost killed him for ‘stealing’ scrap metal, which he wanted to sell and buy heroine.
The heroine, he says, is usually concealed in a certain brand of cigarettes so that they can use it in disguise.
Gachanja, admits that he is an addict of heroine and other hard drugs.
“The soul is willing to quit drugs but my body cannot allow. I have tried but it seems only death will stop this,” a remorseful Gachanja said as he bends to wipe a swarm of flies on his leg.
Capital FM News investigative team met Gachanja at his ‘base’ in downtown along Nairobi River, where he spends most of the time together with other street children.
– Desperation that leads to crime –
To satisfy his urge for drugs, Gachanja needs money, but he doesn’t work.
So other than street borrowing, he and his colleagues often engage in crime.
“When you have not used heroine, you don’t think. That is why you see some of us snatching people’s bags or phones, sell it for a throwaway price. One dose cost Sh500,” he said.
“If you fail to get the money, most of the time, one collapses and falls unconscious…I would really want to break these chain of drugs and serve God instead. He is my only hope.”
As we depart, he takes us to a nearby chemist, where we buy some painkillers after the pain emanating from the wound became unbearable.
– Death and unity of sufferers –
This reporter had exchanged his contacts with the 14-year-old boy who recounted his sodomy ordeal, who promised to call back, using a friend’s phone, which he did after four days.
“Sasa, (hi). Would you like to meet the owner of the house I want to be staying. She is only charging Sh200…,”went the phone conversation with him.
The meeting was scheduled for the following day after the call but it did not happen.
One of their own was shot dead that night by police officers in unknown circumstances and he, together with hundreds of his colleagues were to go to the City Mortuary to view his body.
“We don’t have anyone else other than ourselves…we unite during such moments,” the 14- year-old boy said.
Their departed colleague was shot five times in a close range according to their testimonials.
Another had been buried a day before.
As his body lays lifeless in the morgue, their question is, do we have a right to live a dignified life?
And yes they are aware of the existence of the Independent Policing Oversight Authority, which they say, “it should investigate the killings of street children in Nairobi. They usually kill a street child and place a fake gun on him.”
“The police don’t want to see us at all,” John Ngure told Capital FM News at the city mortuary.
“We know the specific officers…they are used to killing street children. We don’t matter in this country.”
His sentiments were echoed by his colleague Festus Ndung’u, who says “it is survival for the fittest living in the streets.”
“Most of us are orphans and we are here because we do not know where else to go,” Ndung’u added.
Whether that is the case or not, it is the sole responsibility of the Government and the society to ensure there are no children in the streets.
– The den of drugs for street children –
It is along Juja Road that we meet John Munyiri, 42, at his stall where he works as a cobbler.
To him, adhesive is the substance he uses to fix a torn shoe, but that is a basic necessity of his 39-year-old brother, who is no longer mentally stable.
“It pains a lot. We grew together with my brother but since he joined the streets, life has never been the same again,” Munyiri said.
Some two years ago, his brother was taken to a rehab by a well-wisher for at least seven months, where he showed great improvement.
But after the seven months, “when he returned, he still continued with his old habits. He inhales glue and jet oil.”
It is through Munyiri that we discover the den of drugs, where almost all city street children go to get their dose.
Some three neatly dressed women are among a group of people who have opened small shops and sell small portions at Sh20 in Mlango Kubwa area of the city.
“They get good money. A five litre jerrycan of glue or msii (jet oil) is sold at Sh1,800 in Gikomba, which after selling they get a profit of Sh3,600,” he said.
We decide to visit the den though aware of the dangers involved but through his guidance.
About 200 metres to the place, Munyiri retreats saying “you can now proceed. It will not be good for me if they see me with you. This is a ghetto and they can easily tell who is a local and a stranger.”
Upon arrival, we see tens of street children, women and their babies, young boys and old men, all camped in one place.
They are holding a bottle of either adhesive or jet oil while having conversations.
Some are making fresh orders.
And according to Munyiri, police are aware of the den but nothing much has happened against the lot destroying the future of these children.
One of the elderly women, one you would hope understands the pain of bearing a child, unapologetically told Capital FM News that “this is my business just like any other. You should keep off.”
After a few minutes, having captured the deplorable conditions, we hurriedly left.
We had already started attracting a lot of attention that would pose a security risk to ourselves as the ‘business’ owners got jittery.
Other than a street lady who tells this reporter “you look familiar” the rest are lost in their own world and did not notice our presence.
Besides Mlango Kubwa, the people responsible of sniffing life out of the street children are largely along the Globe Cinema Interchange and other dens along Nairobi River.
Munyiri is aware that his brother may never reform and awaits the worst, death, but he has an appeal to the government; “please protect our children from these people. They do not care about the future of this country other than the money they get.”
The National and County Government, he says, should construct several rehabilitation centres to cater for those in the streets, even as they seek to address the root cause of this problem.
An entire generation is being wiped out of the face of the world, unless, the government acts swiftly.
Most of the children as established by this piece will need serious medication, some are suffering from serious ailments, others like the sodomised boy traumatized by beastly actions against them, but they too are tired of living in the streets.