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Kenya: Child Abuse and Cheap Labour at IDP Camps

Kenya: Child Abuse and Cheap Labour at IDP Camps

The woes of families displaced by the recent wave of violence in Nakuru and its surroundings have assumed a new, but sad twist.

The Standard learnt that the camps scattered across the town have become sources of cheap labour and marriages targeting minors.

Underage girls were being lured out of the camps with a promise of well paying jobs, but end up as house girls or victims of arranged marriages.

An officer in charge of Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDPs) camps, Mr Jesse Njoroge, confirmed that they have rescued 31 underage girls from early marriages and cheap labour.

“Some desperate parents even confessed receiving money from people in exchange for their daughters,” said Njoroge.

Some of the girls, he said, were offered accommodation by ‘Good Samaritans’ only to end up as house helps.

“We managed to get all the 31 who had been taken on different dates to various locations in Nakuru town since this camp was started. They are now back in camp,” he said.

The Kenya Red Cross Society has since put measures to curb the vice by vetting those entering the camps and putting notices that cheap labour was not available.

‘Hatuuzi wasichana na wavulana wa kazi hapa’ (we do not have girls and boys for cheap labour here)’, reads one of the notices at the Nakuru Showground.

Another notice read: “This camp is not a source for cheap labour.”

Njoroge said some people were taking advantage of the displaced people and duped them that they had jobs for their children.

He said some parents were offering their daughters for arranged marriages out of desperation and need for money.

“Some girls were being offered for marriage for as little as Sh2,000,” he said.

The coordinator, however, said they were educating parents against allowing their children to be taken by strangers.

Investigation by The Standard showed that some people were going to the camps pretending they were visiting the displaced only to end up looking for labour.

One of the IDPs, Ms Jane Njeri, said strangers had on several occasions asked her whether they could get a girl to hire as a house help.

“I once told a woman I did not know and asked her to go to the Red Cross information desk for help,” she said.

Meanwhile, many displaced families in Eldoret are not ready to be re-settled by the Government due to fears of fresh attacks.

Some of the victims told The Standard that they could only agree to leave the camps if the Government assured them of their security.

“I cannot go back to the farm because those who attacked us were our neighbours and nothing can stop them from attacking us again,” said Ms Veronica Wanjiru, 64, at the Eldoret Showground camp, which is hosting more than 14,000 people.

The victims claimed past experience had shown that those who are re-settled are later attacked despite assurance of security.

“The Government re-settled some of those who were attacked in the 1992 and 1997 clashes only for them to be attacked again,” said Mr Ngumo Mwaniki, another victim of the recent post-election violence.

The victims felt although there were many problems at the camps, they were more secure than while in their homes because of the security the police offered.

Uasin Gishu DC, Mr Benard Kinyua had one week ago said plans for the re-settlement of the victims were at an advanced stage.

Kinyua said the Government was finalising the re-settlement plans and that once security was restored in areas affected by the violence, those displaced would be assisted to re-settle.

According to the Kenya Red-Cross Society, about 65,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Uasin Gishu District alone.

Kinyua had said those who had made individual efforts to re-settle should report any fresh attacks to the police and local administration.

Source: The East Africa Standard – 5 February 2008