How minors are sold for a song

Published on East African Standard Here

It is 10am and I arrive at a five star beach club next to the Kilindini harbour to meet a beach boy who would hook him up with a child prostitute and a potential ‘buyer’.

At first, the well-built chap known only as Alphonse denies such activities ever take place at the beach, but after much prodding and bargaining he thaws.

“I can get you one but it will cost you a lot of money. And I also need some time,” he says rather sheepishly. How much money and how long would it take? I enquire.

“It will cost anything between Sh15, 000 and Sh20,000 depending on the child’s age. I would suggest you return later, preferably after midnight,” he suggests.

I keep the appointment, arriving at the club 15 minutes after midnight and settle in an indiscreet corner of the five-star nightclub by the beach. Minutes tick by as I wait patiently, then hours – I fear I have drawn a blank.

Then the stocky lad finally appears panting like a cheetah had chased him down. It was tough, he whispers, but I finally got one. It is expensive, though. You will have to give me Sh50, 000 – he blurts out the figure as though it was a small change.

I assure him I had no problem with the cost as long as he brings the child. But Alphonse disappears into the darkness again promising to return with the child in a few minutes.

But it is not until in the wee hours of the morning that he calls to say the price has gone up. “I’m sorry but my suppliers want more money. Could you make it Sh70, 000?” he says.

Just then I realise two things, either the chap had developed cold feet, thinking we were detectives or he thought he had hit a jackpot and his mind went wild.

But that is the child sex trade –– mired in intrigues as I discovered after barely eight hours at a high-flying tourist joint in the opulent Mtwapa area in the South Coast. Elsewhere, entry to the magnificent hotel, which The Standard On Saturday cannot name due to legal reasons, is heavily guarded. At the doorway, you are frisked to the bone – not even a mobile phone is allowed if you are not a member of the club.

Wewe boss utakuja nami, nifuate haraka (Hey boss you will have to come with me…. follow me now). The burly security man barked as he led me into an inner room.

He had realised I was carrying a voice recorder, and was keen to know my real mission at the club. I took advantage of his apparent naivety to convince him that the garget was a new kind of mobile phone and even pretended I could make a call on it by setting off a crackling sound on the gadget. After ten minutes of grilling and identification re-check, the gadget was detained, and I was released. I was also lucky enough to have left behind my official work identification.

Inside the club it was a different story, the atmosphere was ecstatic as I am enveloped in the partying mood. A tourist who sounds Russian and who appears inebriated approaches a colleague and I and welcomes us to his table and buys us a double round of drinks – never mind one drink at this place could set you back several hundred shillings.

To our horror the man thinks I am a male prostitute and makes advances. I take in a deep breath and set myself to play the part, but with care. I ask him if he would know anyone interested in children – boys or girls – for sex.

He looks at me for a long time then leads me into a private room at the back of the hotel. At this point, my clothes are wet with sweat because I did not know what I was getting myself into.

The visit to the basement hovel is a lurid experience. Bright tinted lights assault your face as you enter the expansive but messy room. A single bed lies against the far wall, on it are dirty linen, including women’s clothes. A fetid stench pervades the room forcing me to breath through the mouth.

In another corner of the room, a table is splashed with powdered stuff that resembles cocaine. But what sends my heart racing is the menacing fellow, whom I had not noticed, standing by the backdoor, pistol holstered on his hips.

My suitor who until now had not told me his name introduces me to the half-Caucasian, half-Indian man sitting by the couch in the middle of the room, a burning cigar in his hand.

He tells him I have some business I wanted to transact, but at this point I am under no illusion these people are dangerous and demand my partner to be present.

My partner is a beautiful young coastal woman – and her beauty seems to do the trick because for the first time since I entered the room, the man with a cigar lifts his head.

He motions her towards the guard at the door who whispers to the woman in Kiswahili. To my shock, the guard seems to know the woman. However, no deal has been reached, but just before we leave the boss (man with the cigar) sermons the guard and whispers something in his ears. At this point, I am sweating even more profusely. After a few minutes, the guard announced they will only deal with the woman then takes her phone number before showing us out.

The woman who said she used to frequent the club would later tell me she knew the guard when he was a waiter at the same club and was shocked at the work he was now doing.

The trail of paedophiles took me to all sorts of places, including sordid lodges and brothels where we met ‘used and dumped’ girls who would sleep with anyone for the price of a loaf of bread or a mug of keg.


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