Puzzle of woman killed in lodging

Posted Daily Nation Thursday, June 10 2010 at 21:14

Self-confessed serial killer Philip Onyancha on Thursday said he killed a woman in a lodging in Nakuru town.

The former watchman took detectives, led by the head of Special Crime Prevention Unit Richard Katola, to the lodging and showed them the room he had booked.

At the same time, Onyancha’s secondary school teacher said to have recruited him into a murder cult, gave herself up to the police on Thursday.

The woman, who now teaches at Kitimaiyu secondary in Ruiru, walked into Kahawa Wendani police post where she was booked in and transferred to Kasarani police station.

In Nakuru, detectives were surprised because the murder was not reported by the management of the lodging to the police.

“The owners of this place have many questions to answer because if Onyancha is confessing that he killed the woman, we wonder why the management did not report the matter to the police and what is more perplexing is where the body was  taken to,” said a senior CID officer.

Answering questions from the detectives in the room, Mr Onyancha said he met the woman on Gusii Road and took her to the lodging after paying Sh250.

Detective: “What happened when you were only two of you in the room”?
Onyancha: “I strangled the woman and hid her body in that cupboard (pointing at the cupboard).”
Detective: “Can you describe the kind of woman you are talking about?:”
Onyancha: “She was a fat Kikuyu lady”.
Detective: “Did you suck her blood”?
Onyancha: “Oh yes”.

He was then whisked back to the CID headquarters in the town.


The teacher mentioned by the self-confessed serial killer as the one who recruited him into the macabre business, had earlier been reported missing but was later reported to be in police custody on Thursday evening. The teacher is said to have recruited Mr Onyancha while working at Kenyatta High School, Nyeri, in 1996.


We are human traffickers not pirates, suspects stun court

Published by EAS on 16/02/2010

By Linah Benyawa

Eight piracy suspects said they turned to the lucrative human trafficking business after fishing became unprofitable.

The Somalis told a Mombasa court they were carrying weapons to protect themselves from pirates.

They also told Senior Principal Magistrate Lilian Mutende that Somalia was a war-torn country and the weapons were for self-defence.

“We are fishermen but we had left the business for a while and were doing human trafficking for those willing to go to European countries,” said Ahmed Omar, one of the suspects.

But when State Counsel Alexander Muteti asked him why they were engaging in human trafficking at night, Omar said they were not allowed to do that.

“In Somalia, human trafficking is illegal and that is why we operate at night to avoid arrest,” he said.

Omar caused laughter in the parked court when he said Somalia was a dangerous country and every one carries a gun even to the toilet.

Danger at high seas

“We had guns, RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) for self-defence. We are aware the high seas are dangerous and we carried the weapons to protect ourselves from pirates,” he said.

He told the court they were returning to Somalia from Yemen when they were arrested. He also alleged the British Navy shot and killed four of their colleagues.

Omar alleged the naval officers detained them for two days before they were ferried to Mombasa where they were charged.

“We are not pirates. We never attempted to attack any vessel on the high seas and I wonder why we were arrested and detained for two days, then brought here where we were charged,” said Omar.

Prostitutes are products of societal neglect

Published by EAS on 20/02/2010

By Njoki Ndung’u

If victims of the alleged serial killer on the prowl in Thika town would have been different, the public uproar would have been far louder.

By now, there would have been predictable demonstrations pillorying the police for security lapses.

Politicians from otherwise divergent camps and persuasions would have found a temporary rallying call in condemning senseless killings. Religious leaders, nudged into action by fear of apparent ritual killings, would have found a good reason for inter-denomination prayers.

The media would have brought us moving stories by families and friends of victims provoking outcry at the needless loss of lives of adorable mothers and families.

But that has not happened because the victims are supposedly prostitutes. The reported killing of around five women has failed to stir typical fears such mysterious deaths would ordinarily cause. That is hardly surprising considering the united disdain that society holds for members of the oldest profession.

The world all over, commercial sex workers are regarded as vermin; they are home breakers and vectors of venereal diseases, including HIV/Aids.

Social problems

Yet, prostitution as a trade creates so many social problems largely because governments and its citizens tend to approach it with a puritan rather than pragmatic approach. Some countries outlaw it without looking into the reasons for which it exists.

In Kenya, prostitution is outlawed in three ways: The Penal Code which criminalises solicitation (asking for money in exchange for sex) and running of brothels (those earning a living off the earnings of prostitution).

The Sexual Offences Act 2006 outlaws child prostitution, trafficking for the purposes of prostitution and pimping. There are also the council by-laws that criminalise loitering and many archaic offences that were outlawed by the Inter Party Parliamentary Group (IPPG). These are however still being enforced by council askaris as evidenced in intermittent swoops of women and girls for loitering with intent to prostitute.

Sex workers

To underscore the futility of the latter category of laws and their application, often, those arrested pay their fines and if indeed they are commercial sex workers, they are soon back to business as usual anyway. That the crackdown is usually timed to weekends or end month strongly suggests the laws on-off enforcement is guided by extortionist desires than the pure elimination of the vice. Notably, these current laws are unreasonably discriminative. Only the commercial sex workers get arrested and prosecuted while the male customers, almost without exception, go free. The consequence of this is that everyone continues to hate prostitutes while we hold their clients, many rich and famous including politicians, priests and diplomats, in the highest possible regard.

Louise White’s book, The Comforts of Home: Prostitution in Colonial Nairobi, gives a compelling history of factors behind prostitution in Kenya then and now. Most sex workers sell their bodies due to genuine social and economic distress. Some have children and dependants to fend for. Many opt for sex for money simply to get their next meal or find somewhere to sleep. Some are coerced into it, while others are socially dysfunctional victims of childhood sexual abuse. It would be wrong therefore to brand any of these as criminals.

Moral basis

I think there is a strong case for decriminalising prostitution from a moral perspective. Many people who oppose this use moral basis, which is blind to underlying reasons that push women to go into the trade.

Such moralistic approach prioritises condemnation and punishment ahead of the need to help them out. With exception of the countries in the West, punishment is almost always one sided. I must emphasis decriminalisation is different from legislating for prostitution which makes it a legal trade. Rather, it takes away criminal prosecutions because I do not believe commercial sex workers are criminals. Instead, they are a product of society and its neglect.

A dispassionate and realistic way of dealing with prostitution must competently address two issues: the rehabilitation of those forced into the business by circumstances and how to regulate those who wish to continue in it. The latter is especially an important prerequisite to setting professional standards and enforcing conditions such as mandatory health checks, use of condoms, combating child prostitutes and human trafficking, among others.

I am convinced these are realistic goals that are being sporadically achieved elsewhere without official Government support. Last week, I was at a meeting facilitated by KTN with a woman called Rahab who is a former sex worker. She is working amazing ways of taking girls off the street. Her story reflects that of many girls who end up being commercial sex workers.

Hold victims hostage

Most of them are introduced or enticed into commercial sex work as teenagers by older relatives, friends of their parents or other persons who are in positions of relative trust or authority to them. This has never been addressed. Neither is the drug and alcohol addiction that holds these victims hostage to the trade.

Rahab is working to have a multi-pronged approach to this problem by opening up different income generation methods and building skills to do so. The Women’s Fund and the Youth Fund should also be used to focus on this to enable those who wish to be rehabilitated and set up other lawful businesses.

We all need to support initiatives like this so as to approach commercial sex work with less of a prosecutorial attitude and more of one of understanding.

Confessions of a human smuggler

Published  by EAS on 03/03/2010

By Linah Benyawa

He is facing charges related to piracy in the Indian Ocean coastline in Somalia, but Ahmed Mohamed Omar vows he is not a pirate.

Omar recently shocked a Mombasa court when he told the magistrate that together with seven other suspects charged with him, they were not pirates but human traffickers.

“We are fishermen but we had left the business for a while and were doing human trafficking,” Omar told the court. He said that that they were returning to Somalia from Yemen when they were arrested.

Ahmed Mohamed Omar, third left, when he was charged with attempting to hijack MV Powerful in the Indian Ocean.

They were arrested on November 11, 2008 on the high seas near the Somali coast by British naval forces.

They were charged with attempting to hijack MV Powerful on that day and while armed with dangerous weapons, put into fear the lives of the crewmembers.

“We are not pirates and we never attempted to attack any vessel at the high seas and I wondered why we were arrested and detained for two days and then taken to Kenya where we were charged,” said Omar.

During the defence hearing, the suspects had told the court that they were carrying weapons.

“We had guns and Rocket Propelled Grenades for self defence. We carried the weapons to protect ourselves from pirates,” said Omar. Omar surprised the court when he said that Somalia was a dangerous country and everyone carries guns everywhere, even in the toilet.

“If you don’t have a gun, you cannot even work,” he told the magistrate when asked why he was carrying a weapon.

Human trafficking and smuggling may be an illegal business, but to them, it is just another way to make ends meet.

Later in an interview at Shimo la Tewa Prison where he is remanded, he said that ‘passengers’ always request to be transported to destinations of their choice along the Indian Ocean and the Gulf region.

“We normally conduct this business when people come to us and request to be ferried to different countries in search of greener pastures,” said Omar.

High returns

He said together with his colleagues, they first ventured into the ocean to fish but soon realised that smuggling people was more profitable than fishing.

“At times we smuggle people from Bosaso town in Somalia to Yemen. Others including Kenyans demand to be ferried to Arab countries to look for better jobs,” he noted.

He said that Somali nationals are always on the run to other countries, Kenya being one of the main destinations where they live as refugees. He said the vessels they use for smuggling can carry many passengers, which means high returns since they charge up to $120 (Sh9,000) per person.

“At the time when business is booming, we can carry up to 120 passengers per trip. That’s a good deal,” Omar said.

He noted that despite the high charges, Somalis are always ready to part with anything as long as they are taken out of the country for the sake of their safety.

But the business is not practised on broad daylight because many countries are vigilant, he revealed.

The US and French navy have been patrolling the East African coast and the horn of Africa in an efforts to curb piracy thereby threatening their business.

Omar said they usually smuggle people late at night to evade detection.

“We are aware that the business is illegal even in Yemen. That is why we operate late at night,” he says.

Due to high insecurity in the ocean, Omar said they invest heavily in good weapons.

“Though we conduct the business at night, we are usually armed. The waters we pass through are hostile and we also need to protect ourselves even from our passengers. Some of them are dangerous,” he added.

A hooded German commando escorts a suspected pirate arrested in the Indian Ocean. Photos: Maarufu Mohamed/ Standard

Speaking from Shimo la Tewa Prison, he said they were mistaken as suspected pirates because they were heavily armed.

“We carry fishing gears like grappling hooks and fishing nets while smuggling people as a disguise that we are fishermen. But the weapons made us to be mistaken for pirates,” he lamented. “Somalia is a dangerous country and that is why we are always armed.”

He said they don’t force people into the trade adding that they find it very normal to ferry people to different parts of the world to look for greener pastures.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) describes smuggling of Migrants as a crime involving the procurement for financial or other material benefit of illegal entry of a person into a state of which that person is not a national or resident.

Breeding ground

Human trafficking on the other hand is defined as the practice of humans being tricked, lured, coerced or otherwise removed from their home or country and then forced to work with no or low payment or on terms which are highly exploitative.

But Omar said they have at no time lured, tricked or forced people into being taken out of the country. He said their clients are the ones who persuade them to ferry them to the destination of their choice.

“In Somalia, everyone wants to survive, we have to do the illegal trade even without caring whether its illegal,” he said.

Omar said he had been fishing for four years and was aware that the Gulf of Aden is dangerous and that pirates existed. Currently there are more than 130 suspected pirates remanded at the Shimo la Tewa Prison. Ten have already been convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

But Somalia is not only know for pirates but has also developed a reputation as a breeding ground for terrorists linked to the Al Qaeda terror group.

Twelve Ethiopians held at border

Published by EAS on 16/03/2010

By Lucas Ng’asike

Twelve foreigners were arrested at the Kenya-Ethiopia border in Turkana North District in a suspected human trafficking syndicate involving immigration officials and a Somali tycoon.

Police in Lokitaung seized the Ethiopians at Kaaleng Trading Centre on Saturday while being ferried to Nairobi.

Sources said the foreigners arrived in Omorate Town on the Ethiopian side two weeks ago as traffickers organised to transport them to Nairobi.

DC Jack Obuo said the Local foreigners were sneaked into the country from different routes.

Officers also impounded a vehicle with Somalia registration numbers, which was to ferry the foreigners to Nairobi.

official stamp

The foreigners possessed travelling documents bearing Ethiopian official stamps and endorsed with a stamp from the Kenyan Lokichoggio immigration Offices.

The documents were stamped on February 12.

“We are scrutinising the documents because most of them, which were processed by the Ethiopian immigration officials at Omorate border town are written in Amharic”, said the DC.

Kenya turns into trafficking hub for Ethiopians

Published by EAS on 17/03/2010

By Ali Abdi

A truck emerged from the tracks in bushes and then dropped about 30 passengers at Kambi Garba near Isiolo town. Immediately after they disembarked, two taxis pulled up and immediately some of the passengers entered before the cars zoomed towards Isiolo Town.

The taxis later returned to pick the rest of the passengers. They took them to a lodging in town. At the lodging they met members of a cartel promising to arrange their travel to South Africa.

On the same day, more than 60 people were dropped by a truck and two new Land cruisers at Archers Post, Samburu East District.

Victims of human trafficking from Ethiopia who were recently intercepted by police in Archers Post. They had been discretely ferried from Moyale passing many police roadblocks on their way to Isiolo.

Photos: Ali Abdi/ Standard

Taxis with tinted windows were sent to pick the passengers who had been discretely ferried to Isiolo town.

Lucrative trade

Unfortunately, 14 of them were arrested while the rest managed to travel to Isiolo.
This is part of a lucrative human trafficking and smuggling business that has taken root along the Kenya-Ethiopia border. It involves desperate Ethiopians out to join their relatives who are refugees in Western Europe and North America or those looking for greener pastures in South Africa and Namibia.
In the first case, the truck driver, who managed to pass through more than 10 police barriers in Moyale, Marsabit and Samburu drops his human cargo at Kambi Garba, about 5km from the Isiolo town centre, to avoid the police barrier that is less than 3km ahead.
They avoid the police in Isiolo mainly for three reasons; because there is a feeling police here are more vigilant, their bribery charges are higher or the fear that the illegal activity has been leaked to the authorities.
In the second incident, the truck driver who brought his passengers from various illegal entries along the border avoids the Isiolo-Moyale highway at Turbi in North Horr and instead use cattle tracks to Merti in Isiolo District.
Many of those trafficked are women and children, who believe the cartel means well for them.

But things do not often work out.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says many find themselves as slaves when they reach their destinations.
Kenya has been identified as a source, destination and a transit point for trafficked persons, a new form of modern slavery.
While admitting the existence of the trafficking cartels, Eastern Provincial Police Officer Marcus Ochola told CCI that they are so sophisticated that they use routes that are only known to locals.

Little attention

“The cartels use their knowledge of local language and terrain to bring in the Ethiopians. Every day they use a new route. We are shocked that the Ethiopians are now using
Merti road to avoid the police barriers along the Isiolo-Moyale highway,’’ noted Ochola.
The police chief noted that while the Government was focusing on the Somalia-Kenya border, that of Kenya-Ethiopia had been given little attention thereby increasing the number of aliens getting into Kenya through the unmanned porous border.
Ochola said the police and immigration officers were on high alert, but admitted that they lack enough personnel and resources like vehicles to properly cover the vast, porous and remote borderline.
He said the cartel had outsmarted his officers due to their knowledge of local terrain and language adding that the brokers use different routes that are not designated as

“They (cartel) are now using the Merti road taking advantage of the unusual heavy traffic resulting from the oil exploration in the division. We are now looking at all the possible routes,’’ said the PPO.

CCI learnt that the vehicles ferrying the immigrants use the Merti-Lososia-Archers Post route and drop the Ethiopians at night at the junction of the Isiolo-Moyale highway and Archers Post-Merti road. Taxi drivers later pick them in groups and take them to hotels in Isiolo town.
They use illegal entries in Moyale, Wajir, North Horr and Turkana to enter Kenya before travelling to Nairobi and thereafter to their preferred destinations abroad.
On the Kenyan side, a trafficking cartel operates from Moyale but has branches in Marsabit and Isiolo to assist the Ethiopians to get to their destinations through Kenya.

Our month-long investigation revealed that an average of 100 Ethiopians get to Isiolo daily. An average of 30 of them are arrested by police and charged with being in
Kenya illegally while the rest find their way to Nairobi.

Our findings, also confirmed by both the police and the Immigration Department in Moyale, show that most of the aliens enter through illegal border entries in Moyale’s Central and Sololo divisions, Forolle in North Horr and at entries bordering Moyale and Wajir districts through the assistance of the cartels.
The Ethiopians also use illegal entry points at the Kenya-Ethiopia and Kenya-Sudan-Ethiopia border at Lokichoggio (Turkana) and Illeret (North Horr).

From Lokichoggio, they board matatus to Nairobi while from Illeret, they use the Loyangalani-Baragoi-Maralal-Nyahururu route to get to Nairobi.
Sources said agents in Ethiopia connect those who can afford the trip with their counterparts in Kenya.

Those involved in the illegal trade speak Borana, Amharic and other Oromo languages while most of the victims hail from centres in southern Ethiopia.
To win their trust, the cartels assure the strangers of safely reaching Nairobi.

A source intimated that each person pays the agents an average of Sh50,000 for the journey between Moyale and Isiolo.

According to a member of the cartel operating in Isiolo who has since fallen out with his colleagues, Sh25,000 is meant for transport, Sh10,000 for the agents and Sh15,000 is to be used to bribe the police and the provincial administration officers along the route.
The trip is in two phases. The first phase is between Moyale and Isiolo and it is considered the most dangerous
due to the high possibility of arrest by immigration
officials and police. The other phase is between Isiolo and Nairobi and is less risky.

After paying the required amount, the cartels load the Ethiopians on trucks bound for Nairobi.

But due to difficulties experienced at police barriers, the
smugglers have come up with special vehicles to ferry the aliens up to Isiolo or Archers Post in Samburu East District.

Moyale border point deputy immigration officer Guyo Duba confirmed the work of the human traffickers saying they use illegal entries along the porous border to bring in the Ethiopians.

Duba said Ethiopians, mostly traders with valid travel documents, pass through the legal border point in Moyale town while the aliens with no papers seek the help of smugglers.

No resources

“Moyale border point was among the best manned last year. Only Ethiopians with valid passport pass through here but out there, we have problem with cartels aiding aliens to use illegal entries to get into Kenya,’’ said the officer.

Many victims of human trafficking believe those transporting them mean well for them.
‘I wanted to travel to Nairobi and thereafter see the possibility of travelling to America to join my big brother. I was connected to the Kenyan traffickers in Moyale by a friend in Ethiopia,’’ said a convicted Ethiopian alien who only gave his name as Haile. He said he hails from Dirre in southern Ethiopia.

He is now serving a three-month sentence at Isiolo GK Prison and faces repatriation afterwards.
Other victims interviewed said they had given all their money to the brokers. They lamented the agents had failed to protect them from the police adding that they were asked to bribe the police if they wanted to proceed with their journey.

“I gave out Sh50,000 to the agent in Moyale. I was told part of the money was to be given to the police but on arrival here (Isiolo) I was arrested along with my brothers. My
agents were nowhere to protect us,’’ lamented Haile speaking in Amharic.

Duba lamented that his department lacks resources like vehicles to monitor the border. He said they often rely on police who sometimes work with the cartels to frustrate
their efforts.

He, however, noted that most of the arrests are done on the strength of information forwarded to the police by immigration officers. He said they are working with the police to end
the illegal trade.

Caning pupils: Discipline or abuse?

Published by EAS on 02/06/2010

By Amos Kareithi

When an irate teacher walked towards the student at Gacharage Primary School during the Kiswahili lesson, the entire class waited with baited breath.

Ms Hannah Wairegi’s mission, as she saw it then, was to drum some sense into the “over age” troublemaker. On inspecting Dennis Kariuki’s exercise book, the teacher was as enraged. He had committed the Cardinal sin of not doing his homework. Kariuki’s explanation that he did not have a ball pen did not go down well with Wairegi. She grabbed Kariuki, 13, by the lapel of his shirt and violently shook then released him — at least according to her admission.

Although Wairegi swears she did not harm her pupil, medical records contradict her account.

Kariuki claims the teacher hit his head on the desk, flung him to the blackboard causing him to collapse on the floor. The teacher then stepped on his neck.

Recorded statement

After the incident, he says, his classmates attended to him and took him home. On seeing his injuries, Kariuki’s parents took him to Rwero police post were he recorded a statement and was given a note to take to Kiambu District Hospital.

“The bearer of this note reported that he has been assaulted and sustained some injuries on the throat. Please examine him for injury for police action,” reads the note.

According to a medical report from the hospital, the boy suffered injuries to his neck, upper ear, and nose and throat trauma and was bleeding from the nose. A discharge was also coming from his eyes and his throat was hoarse.

Despite being treated at Kihara sub-district, Kiambu district and Kenyatta National hospitals, Kariuki still speaks with hoarse voice.

Back at Gacharage the matter was hushed up and his absence from school for two weeks brushed aside as truancy until someone alerted the Education ministry, which launched an investigation. The teacher was found guilty of administering corporal punishment, contrary to government guidelines, which banned the practice in 1970. She has been interdicted,” an education officer told The Standard. Corporal punishment and caning is widespread in schools, says Mr Paul Mwangi from Community Bridge Network, whose office is flooded by complains from frustrated parents.

“I have just received a case of a boy in Kiambu was hospitalised after he was assaulted by a teacher. I have handled very many such cases,” says Kamau.

Isolated cases

The debate over whether to reintroduce caning rages on. Two years ago after a spate of student unrest the Cabinet reportedly met and approved the use of the cane in schools.

Kenya National Union of Teachers, Kiambu branch Executive Secretary, Clement Gicharu, says although he has received complaints of corporal punishment of students, the problem is not very significant.

“We have been receiving isolated cases. I am aware of the Gacharage case and I was informed the boy was traumatised at home. I am also aware that this teacher has been interdicted but I do not think this is the final solution,” Gicharu adds. If the trade unionist had his way, caning should be reintroduced in schools so as to instil some discipline among pupils and students.

Like Gicharu many teachers see caning as the answer to the many ills facing schools including student unrest, arson and general indiscipline but other experts say they are misguided.

Education Psychologist Kariuki Wanjohi, a lecturer at Egerton University, warns that although traditions and religions advocate for corporal punishment as a way of instilling discipline and moulding a child, it is counterproductive.

“As we speak, I have just received reports of a pupil who is undergoing treatment after he was caned by a teacher in Mukurweini. This is not good for the development of the child,” he says.

Quick fix

He says teachers lack skills to enforce discipline through other methods. Consequently they rush to caning as it is a quick fix that appears to give immediate results.

While caning seems like a good idea in the short term, Wanjohi says, it has negative, lingering effects, which turn children into more aggressive and violent adults. Instead of caning, the expert advocates for communication and counselling errant pupils and other alternative methods of punishment, which are beneficial both to the offender and the society.

Lower IQ

“If a pupil did not submit their homework, a teacher can order him to do extra work. This will not harm the child but might strengthen him academically. Making a pupil narrate a story to the class will not only benefit him but also the class,” Wanjohi says.

Other ways of disciplining children effectively include timeouts and making children understand the connection between actions and consequences.

Experts say punishment ought to be equivalent to the mistake and beneficial to errant pupils.

Apart from making children aggressive recent studies have trashed the biblical wisdom that sparing the rod spoils the child, suggesting that pupils subjected to constant beatings have lower intellectual and mental development.

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