State should protect Kenyans abroad, urges Munyao

From the Standard

Democratic Party Chairman Joseph Munyao has appealed to President Kibaki to take action against the mistreatment of Kenyan women working in Saudi Arabia.

Munyao yesterday complained the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not come out strongly to defend victims. “Even the Kenyan Ambassador in Saudi Arabia, where these atrocities are happening before his eyes, appears to be silent,” said Munyao.

In an open letter to the President, he accused the Saudi Arabian Government of perpetuating neo-slavery against innocent women in pursuit of greener pastures.

The DP leader said it is a shame public officers, who are tasked with responsibility of safeguarding the rights of Kenyans abroad, have failed to carry out their duty.

Bilateral labour pacts not enough to protect Kenyan workers abroad

By Agnes Odhiambo in the Standard

“We Kenyans are hard-working people – we just lack jobs or money to start businesses.” This is something you are likely to hear from unemployed Kenyans. So what do they do? Many cross borders in search of employment.

One such Kenyan is 28-year-old Habiba Mohammed. In February, Habiba thought long and hard about migrating to Saudi Arabia for a job as a domestic worker. She told me she had worked in Saudi Arabia between 2005 and 2008, and was mistreated by the recruiter in Kenya and the employer in Saudi Arabia. But after three years without a job back home, she decided to give Saudi Arabia a second try.

Habiba, like the estimated 3,000 other Kenyan women in Saudi Arabia doing domestic work, was entering a labour sector full of risk. Human Rights Watch research has shown that migrant domestic workers are some of the least well-protected workers in the world. Most countries exclude them from labour law protections, such as a minimum wage, limits to work hours, requirements for rest days, and workers’ compensation. Many are forced to work 15 to 18 hours a day, and many employers refuse to pay wages on time and in full, confine their workers in the household, and even physically and sexually abuse their domestic workers.

But Habiba put her trust in a recruitment agent known to one of her close relatives. The Mombasa-based agent, who frequently travelled to Saudi Arabia to deliver domestic workers to potential employers, told her about a nanny job with a rich Saudi family that would pay Sh30,000 ($400) a month, adding that he had the visa ready. She agreed, paid the Sh30,000 ($400) recruitment fee, left her six-year-old daughter with an elderly aunt in Mombasa, and left for Saudi Arabia.

When she arrived in Saudi Arabia, she was in for a shock. “The woman I was going to work for said she had wanted a tutor for her grandson and not a nanny. I told her I didn’t want to go back to Kenya because I had debts and no job, but she insisted she didn’t need a nanny.”

Her recruitment agent promised to find her another job. But this was not to be.

It’s easy for labour agents and recruiters to get away with such abuses. Kenya does little to regulate them, and abusive agents are rarely punished. Habiba had the courage to report the agent to the Kenyan Embassy in Saudi Arabia. The embassy instructed the agent to return the Sh120,000, which he did. However, he did not return the Sh30,000 recruitment fee, and Habiba had to pay for a ticket back to Kenya. The recruitment agent faced no other penalty, and was not prosecuted for sexual harassment. Habiba said the agent was holding four other girls at a house in Saudi Arabia and was abusing them sexually, but the embassy did not investigate.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The Government should be doing much more to protect its workers abroad. Currently, it is negotiating a bilateral labour agreement with Saudi Arabia. Experience from other countries shows such agreements can improve the situation for domestic workers by setting a minimum wage or guaranteeing them a day off each week. But these agreements are not enough by themselves. Kenya could also spread information at home to bring about greater awareness about the risks and rights faced by Kenyan women if they choose to migrate and strengthen the services provided to them by its embassies.

Kenya could also do more to rein in unscrupulous recruiters. It should register and monitor recruitment agencies, prohibit them from charging exorbitant recruitment fees, and institute sanctions for those who do.

The writer is a researcher, Women’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch in Nairobi

Provide gainful employment to end suffering in Saudi

Published on 06/04/2010

By Njoki Karuoya in the Standard

The media has recently highlighted stories of women being mistreated in Saudi Arabia where they had gone to seek what they presumed to be gainful employment.

Many women working abroad have children and other dependants but the desperate situation here, particularly low employment rates and, where jobs are available, low remuneration that makes it impossible to get out of poverty, has compelled them to try anything.

The jobs out there are sugar-coated and made to appear better than local ones, yet the circumstances and job descriptions are basically similar, difference being the pay.

greener pastures

The women coming back with broken limbs, crushed spirits and, worst of all, in coffins, can hardly be blamed for desiring a better life.

And blaming the Saudi Government for not taking care of its foreign workers will not help us if we do not first examine why many men and women are flocking to foreign countries in search of perceived greener pastures.

There is no doubt Kenyans are one of the most hardworking nationalities in the world. Go to any country and you will probably find a Kenyan, hard at work to earn a living.

Kenyans are even said to be controlling the economies of certain regions because they own booming businesses or work as big shots in corporate and international organisations. The people first responsible for our protection is ourselves, so the Government, through its Ministry of Labour and affiliated institutions, can no longer afford to hide its gigantic head in the sand and pretend ignorance.

It is obvious the Government has failed in its responsibility to ensure its people are gainfully employed — and this does not mean making people rich, but enabling a state where Kenyans are able to support themselves, their families and dependants.

Dynamic people

Despite this failure, Kenyans are a dynamic people who have refused to be cowed by an ineffective Government and have started businesses hoping to realise dreams and spiritedly fight their way out of poverty and into comfort.

Sadly, there are many who have lost their savings and investments because, again, the Government has failed to provide a stable environment for such ingenious businesses to thrive.

This is particularly true of women-headed businesses where many are unaware of Government incentives available to them and requirements set to operate and successfully run their businesses.

Sadly, this sorry state of affairs is promoted by the misconception that such requirements and incentives are State ‘secrets’, hence businesses remain at rudimentary level instead of growing into successful companies registered on the stock exchange. For any commercial enterprise to grow and for a country to boast a healthy economy, the Government has to get directly involved with the sector and its players.

Playing god, where the ministries of trade, industrialisation, finance, cooperatives, agriculture, livestock and related institutions and policy makers seem untouchable and out of reach of the ‘common’ mwananchi, is retrogressive and does not help.

Policy makers

Select international and non-governmental organisations are doing their bit to help people set up and sustain businesses that generate some level of regular income.

Policy makers, too, must actively play their role and educate the business community, irrespective of the size of enterprise, on what they can do to move their businesses and industries to the next level. They must be ready to answer questions and respond to inquiries and demands by the community on the steps being taken to promote a healthy and vibrant economic environment.

Gender Agenda will soon embark on a programme that will pit policy makers with women entrepreneurs for progressive discussions that will enhance economic empowerment.

Going to the next level means creating an enabling commercial environment for Kenya’s entrepreneurs to sell their products and services throughout the country and ensuring the same services and products compete fairly in international markets.

The Government must, therefore, be seen to visibly champion the country’s commercial interests locally, regionally and internationally.

Watch this space.

Terror grips village as vigilante gang strikes, killing four people

JACOB OWITI | NATION. Ms Yunoke Kwamboka of Kegogi village mourns her son Pascal Gichana Onyiego, 30, who is among the four people beheaded and their bodies dumped by roadside in Nyamira district on Monday.

JACOB OWITI | NATION. Ms Yunoke Kwamboka of Kegogi village mourns her son Pascal Gichana Onyiego, 30, who is among the four people beheaded and their bodies dumped by roadside in Nyamira district on Monday.

From the DAily Nation By HENRY NYARORA, henrynyarora@yahoo.co.uk and VALENTINE OBARA, vobara@ke.nationmedia.com

Posted  Wednesday, September 22 2010 at 17:32

Sungusungu an outlawed outfit

  • The Sungusungu, the vigilante group said to be behind the killings, is an illegal outfit operating in Kisii.
  • In 2008, 12 people, including a reverend’s wife, were killed and their bodies burnt on suspicion they were practising witchcraft.
  • This week, Jeremiah Bogonko became a victim of the group

Residents of a village in Nyamira District are living in fear following the killing of four people by vigilantes.

The killers, numbering about 50 and suspected to be members of the notorious Sungusungu vigilante group, stormed Kegogi village and dragged out people they suspected to be criminals and hacked them to death.

Witnesses said the vigilantes, armed with axes, machetes and rungus on Monday night stripped their victims before dragging them from their homes to a deserted area where they tied their hands behind their backs and chopped off their heads.

Arranged in a line

Mr William Meoka, who lives close to where the bodies were found, said the heads were arranged in a line by the roadside and the torsos in a trench.

“We found the heads arranged in a neat row as if the murderers were not in a hurry,” he said.

Relatives of one of the victims, Mr Pascal Gichana, are in shaken by the turn of events.

His brother, Mr Joseph Onyiego, narrated how Mr Gichana was at a neighbour’s funeral when the gang pounced.

“They stormed the homestead and ordered everybody to lie down. They selected two men and dragged them away but returned and took away my brother after ripping off his clothes with their machetes,” he said.

Mrs Eunice Nyaboke Bogonko, the wife of another victim, said her husband, Mr Jeremiah Bogonko Bosire, was abducted from their home at about 10pm after he went out to investigate why the dogs were barking.

“I heard people asking him why he had come out of the house and where he was going. Five of them came into the house and demanded mobile phones, which we surrendered.

“They then smashed the TV set and radio before disappearing into the darkness, taking my husband with them,” Mrs Bogonko said.

“I alerted my father-in-law and we spent a sleepless night. The following morning we learnt that my husband’s headless body had been found in Miruka area in Nyamira.”

The family could not understand why the police had not been to their home, more than 24 hours after the incident. Mr Pascal Gichana Onyiego, a father of three, was killed in similar circumstances

The fourth murder victim, Mr Jeremiah Bogonko Nyakundi was at a funeral when more than 50 people raided the home and selected four people they claimed had guns used to kill a Kenya Assemblies of God church pastor, Mr Michael Onchong’a Nyakundi at Nyambororo village on the Nyamira-Marani border on Sunday night.

West Mugirango chief Duncan Moriasi and Miruka sub-location assistant chief Mathews Onyango asked why the assailants dumped three of the bodies in their area.

“The hands of the victims were tied behind their backs in an indication that the assailants might be Sungusungu,” Mr Moriasi said.

Sungusungu is an outlawed vigilante group in Kisii District that purports to fight criminals.

We may be different, but we’re human too

From the Living Magazine of the Daily Nation

Group of transexual and intersex persons during the interview on September 15, 2010

Group of transexual and intersex persons during the interview on September 15, 2010. PHOTO / Jennifer Muiruri

For close to 18 years, Michael Wainaina kept his “shameful” secret to himself, closely guarding it lest someone found out about it.

He intended to take his humiliating secret with him to the grave — until that dreadful day in September last year when the truth finally came to the open.

You see, Wainaina was born with both male and female genitalia. Besides immediate family members, no one else knew about his condition. But this changed when he was locked up for malicious damage to his employer’s property.

“I had a disagreement with my employer last year and was locked up at Murang’a police station,” explains a shy Wainaina.

When the authorities discovered this anomaly, he was transferred to the Nyeri Prison, where he was locked up together with male prisoners.

This was the beginning of his nightmare as his cell mates took turns to rape him. The assault went on unabated for the one-and-a-half months that he remained in custody. It is a nightmare that he relives every day.

“They would cover my face with a blanket and rape me,” Wainaina whispers, his eyes downcast.

Fortunately, a High Court judge ordered that Wainaina be put on probation. He is now serving his three-year jail term from home.

But he is yet to come to terms with his rape ordeal and is now under psychiatrist care.

It still hurts that those who raped him were not punished.

There is also the fact that he was not put on post-exposure prophylaxis (PHP), which entails that a sexual assault victim or anyone at risk of contracting HIV be put on anti-retroviral drugs for at least 28 days to lower the chances of infection.

He does not know his HIV status.
Wainaina, who comes from Maragua in central Kenya, has two siblings and was brought up by a single parent.

His maternal uncle, Mr John Kihoro, who accompanied him for this interview, discloses that Wainaina was brought up as a boy and was even circumcised together with some of his cousins.

However, Wainaina says that were he to choose his gender, he would love to be female.

“This is because I pass more urine with the female genitals than the male ones,” adding that he would prefer to be a referred to as a woman.

“Psychologically, I feel more of a woman than a man. I have also always enjoyed the company of women and girls and was distressed by the fact that I could not disclose my real identity in case it ruined my relationship with others,” explains Wainaina.

He discloses that he has never had a girlfriend, although he easily mingles with girls.

“I fear being rejected due to my gender identity disorder,” he explains.

He would like to change his gender, but cannot afford to pay for the tests and surgery required to perform the transformation.

Wainaina is not sailing this turbulent sea alone.
John Gisiora Obai has travelled all the way from Onchari, in Kisii, with his seven-year-old son, Joshua Gisiora. Joshua was born with ambiguous genitalia.

“Joshua had a hole in the lower stomach. Alarmed, I immediately took him to a nearby private clinic, but the doctor confessed that he had never seen such a case,” he explains.

This mysterious outcome dampened the happiness that normally greets a newborn and were it not for one of his sisters who supported him as he went from hospital to hospital trying to solve the mystery of the child’s anomaly, he says he would have easily given up.

Eventually, the family was referred to the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), where Joshua has undergone two surgeries. Obai is hopeful that the third operation, which will cost about Sh100,000, will correct his son’s condition. (The operation was due in July this year but the family has not been able to raise the amount).

Joshua’s mother died when he was just six months old. “The pressure of finding a cure was too much for her. She went into depression and was later diagnosed with duodenal ulcers. She died,” Obai explains.

Finding acceptance from close family members and neighbours has been one of the greatest challenges for this father of four.

However, he is lucky because members of his church rallied around him and encouraged him to soldier on.

The Trans-Gender Education and Advocacy Centre (TEA) has also been a big help, especially in helping him to meet the cost of Joshua’s treatment.

TEA is a non-governmental organisation that defends and promotes the rights of trans-gender and inter-sex Kenyans.

“That is how I have managed to stay strong in the midst of this storm,” says a beaming Obai.

He says that unless the ignorance and stigma that surrounds inter-sexuality stop, people with this condition will continue to suffer.

When Joshua was younger, other children would strip him so that they could see what his private parts looked like.

“It affected him, but now that he is older, he cannot allow that to happen because I have taught him to stand up for himself,” says Obai.

Man commits suicide after killing daughter

From the daily nation

Ms Rose Mokeiga Gichana and her children outside their house in Kegogi village after learning of the death of her husband Pascal Gichana Onyiego, 30 who is among five people beheaded in Nyamira district and their bodies dumped by the roadside. Photo/JACOB OWITI

Ms Rose Mokeiga Gichana and her children outside their house in Kegogi village after learning of the death of her husband Pascal Gichana Onyiego, 30 who is among five people beheaded in Nyamira district and their bodies dumped by the roadside. Photo/JACOB OWITI

By BENSON NYAGESIBA and HENRY NYARORA henrynyarora@yahoo.co.uk
Posted Tuesday, September 21 2010 at 22:00

In Summary

  • Wife, who was battered and left for dead is fighting for her life in hospital

A Kisii family is in shock after one of its members killed his daughter, attacked his wife and then hanged himself.

Mr Paul Kira Orinda, 37, first attacked his wife several times on the head and left her for dead before slashing his two-year-old daughter to death.

He then hanged himself from a rope on a nearby tree.

The wife is fighting for her life at the Kisii Level Five Hospital, where she was taken by Good Samaritans after the attack.

Shocked relatives and neighbours converged at the man’s home in Ruga Market.

Area head of police Peter Njenga said preliminary investigations indicated that the man committed the offence after a quarrel with his wife.

Commit heinous act

“This is a bizarre incident, where a man decides to take the life of his wife and that of his daughter.

We don’t understand why a man can commit such a heinous act on his family,” Mr Njenga said.

Fear has gripped villagers in neighbouring Nyamira District after four people were killed in what is suspected to be a resurgence of the outlawed Sungusungu vigilante group.

The male bodies, whose hands were tied at the back and the heads mutilated, were on Tuesday found dumped on the roadside near Miruka Market.

West Mugirango chief Duncan Moriasi said: “The way the hands of the victims are tied on their backs is an indication that the assailants might be Sungusungu.”

And in a Kisii court on Tuesday, a man who earlier admitted committing murder changed the plea to not guilty.

Mr George Otieno Okoth denied the offence after demanding that the court reads the charge to him afresh because, he claimed, he did not understand them in the previous hearing.

Mr Okoth, who is charged with killing Divinah Mokeira Amenya at a Keroka bar in June, was remanded until October 29, when the case will be mentioned and the hearing date set.

At 88, he still sings and dances for peace

From the Standard Online

Published on 13/09/2010

BY EDWIN CHESEREK

It is a sunny Saturday afternoon and members of the Burnt forest inter-community peace choir are preparing for rehearsals.

But one of them, Mzee Njuguna Munyinyi stands out among the rest despite his diminutive size.

At 88 years, no one expects him to sing and dance.

Yet he has been the talk of the clashes-prone Burnt forest area because of his love for music and peace campaigns

We met him as he struggled to catch up with the youthful and middle-aged colleagues who were trudging a hilly footpath to the venue.

Exhausted and panting for breath, Mzee Munyinyi finally enters the room, says a short prayer before the group starts rehearsing their latest peace song -— dawa ya pekee ni amani(The only medicine is peace)

His booming voice is clearly discernible as the choir strikes the first tune. This soft-spoken octogenarian is the face of the multi-ethnic community choir formed in 2008 after the post-election violence to preach reconciliation in the area that was one of the violence hot spots.

POLITICS

 

He chose to join a group of 200 peace campaigners from different communities living in the area after witnessing successive chaos in Burnt Forest since the advent of multi party politics in 1992.

“I chose to crusade for peace through singing after I lost all my property in the 2007 post -election violence,” he says.

He adds: “I had to escape to the Rukuini camp for the displaced after former neighbours and friends turned against me.”

His wife, Muthoni Njuguna had earlier fled to Mawingu IDP camp in Nakuru, leaving him behind. His journey to the choir started during the burial of victims of the infamous Kiambaa arson attack in 2008.

“I become a member of the choir at that time because I thought the world was coming to an end,” he told The Standard.

 

HERBS

 

He quickly became a big attraction and crowds jostled to see him whenever the choir performed.

Munyinyi’s rare show has won him local and international recognition.

In June last year, his team performed at the British High Commission in Nairobi to mark the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II.

Now grappling with old age, Munyinyi always carries traditional herbs, which he uses to sooth his aching knees.

However, he is not about to retire despite his age.

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