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Human trafficking continues unabated


NAIROBI — Trafficking in persons in East Africa has been said to be a multifaceted phenomenon whose major driving force is the economic benefits attached to the illegal trade which is increasing concerns globally.

This revelation came at a symposium on countering human trafficking held on November 22 in Nairobi that saw over 10 organisations in the region working against it, meet to seek interventions into ending the dehumanising crime.

Over 50 participants took part in the three-day discussions organised by Koinonia Community’s Advisory and Research Institute (KARDS) with co-sponsorship from other five religious groups: the International Religious Council of Kenya, Catholic Information Services for Africa, Trace Kenya, Jesuit Hakimani and the International Movement of Catholic Students.

This year’s symposium was mainly targeting the involvement of faith­—based organisations who initially didn’t give the issue prominence in their agenda and also finding solutions at the grassroots levels.

Richard Ochanda, the lead consultant with KARDS, says following a study done at the Kenyan coast in 2009, it revealed many non-governmental organisations working to counter human trafficking needed capacity building to effectively handle operations, which pressed them to have one.

Ochanda says the idea of having a human trafficking counter programme started with their own long experiences in the community, working with children from vulnerable families.

“In the year 2006 Fr Kizito (founder of Koinonia Community) wrote a book Shiko which depicted life of one of our own children who had gone through horrendous experience,” he says.

“This made us look deeper into the problem and extent to which people leave home for urban centres where they go through such pain in the hands of those they trust.”

An estimated 600 000 to 800 000 individuals are trafficked across international borders each year with millions more, especially women and children, trafficked within their own countries.

The United Nations agency for drugs and crime describes human trafficking as one of the most profitable activities of crime groups worldwide, which like many other forms of criminal activities, takes advantage of conflicts, humanitarian disasters and vulnerability of people in situations of crises.

Recent major cases on human trafficking in Kenya have been those involving employment seekers in Saudi Arabia where victims have fallen into traps of rogue agents or employers who abuse them in every manner, even killing them.

Albert Masawe of REST, a group based in Dar—es Salaam that works against human trafficking, talks of superstitious culture in Tanzania that propagates trafficking mainly blamed on poverty.

“Unlike victims in many other countries where major cases of human trafficking are for sexual causes, in Tanzania they are charmed for their organs,” he says. He gave an instance where organs such as human hands are used in the belief they entice prospectives for minerals in mines.

Tanzania has had alarming incidents where albinos, believed to possess special charms are trafficked across the region for their organs to make witchcraft paraphernalia. This led to international outcry for more strict legislations by the government against those found engaging in the trade.

Longstanding conflicts in the region have also led to widespread human trafficking, targeting mostly the vulnerable children and women.

Abductions in northern Uganda, southern Sudan and Democratic Republic Congo have been considerably for military services and sexual servicing of soldiers.

The Human Rights Watch estimates that over 20 000 children alone have been abducted by the Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army since the beginning of its terror.

It relies on trafficking because of lack of public support for its activities where they have been raiding and pillaging on local communities.

Caroline Gathu, assistant director at HAART, a counter human trafficking group working in Kenya says most trafficking cases are said to involve the youth who ironically are creating demand for activities or services linked to it.

“By consuming pornography, engaging in prostitution and other socially unacceptable activities that have lots of commodification of persons has seen rise in trafficking. Irony is that it’s the same generation that is falling prey to the trade,” she says.

Gathu proposed for need to cut on issues that create for the demand, calling on all anti-trafficking non-governmental organisations to ensure orchestrated efforts against peril which cuts across all religions and cultures.

Though the awareness of human trafficking is still limited, not many government policies or strategies are formulated and in place to effectively prevent and combat its trends.

Dr Andrea, a lecturer at UNILARK Institute’s cultural department, identifies human trafficking as a major problem in the society.

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