NAIROBI, Kenya – Irene has vowed to seek the help of a witch doctor after her two daughters were stolen from the streets of Nairobi.
She has searched everywhere with little success – children’s homes, hospitals, police stations, county holding facilities for children and even the city mortuary.
Her first daughter was abducted on August 7, 2018, at 4pm at the junction of Mama Ngina street and Moi Avenue, as she played with other children – while Irene was selling bags to customers of an eatery located there.
Deborah, 7, went missing alongside her friend Jubedah.
-The miraculous escape from captivity-
It took her motherly senses to realize her daughter was not within her reach, she narrated to Capital FM News.
An interview that took place at the same place the two girls were stolen, though this time at night, as Irene continued with her hustle.
This time, she is trying to find enough to feed the remaining child aged two years and four months.
“I am extremely worried,” a visibly traumatized Irene said at the beginning of the interview.
As luck would have it, Jubedah, 11, managed to escape from her captors, and they thought she would help them find Deborah.
“We thought through her, we shall find my daughter, but we were wrong,” a teary Irene said shaking her head in despair.
-I saw blood in a room-
Jubedah would tell them a harrowing story she would repeat to me, of how she saw blood inside one of the rooms where she was held.
Upon arrival, she said they were asked to go bathe and were given a new set of clothes to wear.
“There were no other children in the house,” Jubedah recalls. “The woman who took us there was thanked. I also saw her being given money.”
A shaken Jubedah knew something was wrong at this point.
As the woman was being escorted, she too left the house and sneaked out of the compound.
From the house in Githurai 44, she arrived at the Central Business District after several hours of walking.
Jubedah can’t recall the exact location they were taken, but she’s aware it was in Githurai 44, a populous estate off the Thika Superhighway.
The girl can’t also explain how they got themselves into a waiting “white car”.
-Second abduction again with Irene’s daughter-
All was well on March 29, this year at about 6pm.
Jubedah and another of Irene’s daughter Tiffany were selling sweets outside the Kenya Archives, which is located on Moi Avenue, hoping to cash in from the massive human traffic.
When a potential customer fails to buy, they often ask for money – what Irene now term as coins of misery.
Their mothers were across the road, their usual spot where they sell bags to customers mainly from the eatery.
-The prime suspect is one of them-
Irene says the main suspect is a woman they hawk on the streets with.
“I am willing to do anything,” she said with finality, but didn’t expound further what she meant.
After a few minutes staring at freedom fighters Dedan Kimathi statue, she added, “(watajua nimetoka Tharaka Nithi na mimi ni M’Tharaka) they will know I come from Tharaka Nithi. And that I am a Tharaka.”
Her friend was quick to nod in agreement while saying, “We just want the two girls back. Whoever is with them should drop them here (on Kimathi street).”
She has recorded both cases at the Central and Kamukunji Police Stations.
Irene has also sought the help of preachers. She remains hopeful that God will answer her prayers, like “He did for Mary (another victim).” But she’s running out of patience.
“One preacher told me that my children are held somewhere in Nairobi,” she said.
Her anger with “the suspect woman” grew after she saw her daughter Tiffany’s picture on her phone, wearing different clothes.
“She has refused to talk or say where Tiffany is,” she said.
As she awaits for the police to act, Irene is planning a journey to the ‘dark’ world.
According to police, the lady woman suspected for facilitating the child theft has been on their radar for some time.
She is suspected to be part of a syndicate involved in stealing children from the streets of Nairobi and informal settlements.
“We are aware of these cases. We will soon nab those involved in the inhumane business,” a detective, based at Central Police Station, who sought anonymity told Capital FM News.
According to police, some of the victims are subjected to inhumane acts like child pornography, organ harvesting, and sorcerers’ activities.
In Kamukunji Police Station, four suspects – two who are women – are being held in relation to stealing children within the CBD.
Police applied for more time pending investigations, even as it emerges that a sophisticated network of criminals is involved.
Shockingly, Irene has fallen victim of what she declined to do early 2018 when she was approached by two women, who requested her to be “supplying children for them.”
For every girl delivered, they promised to pay Sh100,000, while boys, mostly aged below 12 years are exchanged at a fee of Sh70,000.
She says she can identify some of the cars that ‘collect’ stolen children late at night, some rather flashy.
According to the US Department of State, Kenya is a source, transit and destination country for children, who are subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.
A 2018 review by the Department indicates, “ The Government of Kenya does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period.”
It went on to reveal how girls and boys “are exploited in commercial sex throughout Kenya, including in sex tourism in Nairobi, Kisumu, and on the Coast, particularly in informal settlements – at times, their exploitation is facilitated by family members.”
“Children are also exploited in sex trafficking by people working in khat cultivation areas, near gold mines in western Kenya, by truck drivers along major highways and by fishermen in Lake Victoria.”
Irene’s story, as will be exposed in this series is replicated in the lives of tens of women living on the streets or those who simply earn a living there, while in the company of their children.
In 2017, some 391 cases of child abuse were reported between October and December as captured in a report by Childline Kenya.
Over 30,000 cases of child abuse were reported in Kenya over the past 10 years through the national child helpline service 116.
A worrying culture of a ‘man eats man society’, where authorities have turned a blind eye on children being abused as income earners but also being preyed on by heartless ‘strangers’.