Promoting mass counter trafficking in persons awareness using poetry and other artistic expressions amongst the youth in Nairobi

By Bernard Muhia,

Click to view bernardmuhia's profileThrough Fern Poetry, we are running an awareness creating campaign in high schools on the topic of human trafficking. So far, we have partnered with KARDS Africa and the Braeburn School in this effort and are reaching students through poetry and also inviting them to submit essays and poems on human trafficking. 

The victims of human trafficking are almost always unknowing subjects who are below the legal age and find it hard to defend their rights. It is also the ignorance of the parents who at times give out their children willingly to people they know who then take advantage of this trust to exploit and abuse these children through child labour or sexual advances. It is this age group that the project wants to reach and create awareness among.

Fern Enterprises was registered in 2008 to be a launching pad for an online magazine that would be publishing poems, articles, essays, plays and short stories from students in high school. But the difficulty of students accessing the internet while in school caused us to change our target to be poets who are out of school but still on the online platform. That’s how Fern Poetry was born which has now grown from a blog publishing poems and essays from youth writers to holding a monthly poetry competition with a cash prize.

Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing illegal trades in the world, ahead of guns and drugs. Kenya in particular has over the years become both a source market and transit point for human trafficking. It is with this in mind that Fern Enterprises embarked on a project to create awareness among the school-going population in five high schools of Nairobi in 2010. This project known as the Fern Poetry Project for High Schools  took cognizant of the fact that  very often the young adults are at the highest risk of human trafficking because of their age and naivety. This project will help them understand what human trafficking is and how to avoid becoming a victim and also how to help someone who is a victim or is potentially about to become a victim.

By taking the anti-human trafficking message to schools, students will become aware of this problem and learn ways of protecting themselves. In terms of evaluating how well the students have understood the message, a writing competition on the subject will be initiated to ensure that they internalize the message and then tell it in their own words. The writings gotten from the competition will then be posted online for other students across the country to read.

The students will write poems, essays and articles about human trafficking which is a way to evaluate their understanding of the vice after giving them information about human trafficking. This will be implemented as a competition where the winners will get a small cash prize.


Empowering artists through enabling them to exploit their full potential and realize their dreams.


“Promoting mass counter trafficking in persons awareness using poetry and art amongst the youth in Nairobi.”


Holding poetry competitions aimed at inspiring poets to believe in themselves and in their abilities.

Promoting mass awareness against human trafficking through youthful writings, paintings, drawings and other forms of artistic expressions.

Celebrating and articulating creative writers and reporters by publishing their articles, poetry, essays, plays and short stories.


  • Popularizing anti TIP poems through recitals and acting in targeted audiences.
  • Encouraging the submission of artistic expressions on the theme of trafficking with the aim of exhibiting them.
  • Holding competitions on story writing on the theme of human trafficking amongst the youth in schools and colleges.
  • Mass poetry competition in schools and colleges

Bernard Muhia is the director of The Fern Poetry Project Targeting High Schools  in Nairobi Kenya. Visit his site here for a gallery of poems


Utilizing Information Technology to Address Human Trafficking

By Vitalis Otieno

Trafficking of human beings is one of the cruelest violations of human rights in the world today. Women and

girls in particular are vulnerable to local, national, and international forces that have a strong vested interest in the Perpetuation of rural-to-urban and cross-border human trafficking.

Because of the transnational nature of the problem, it requires a coordinated effort among nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and institutions across the region. However, there is currently very little sharing of information due to the wide distribution of NGOs addressing the problem, the difficulty of communications in remote areas, low levels of information technology (IT) capacity in anti-trafficking groups, and the hesitancy to share sensitive information over insecure channels.

Frontend support is supporting a regional program to address human trafficking in Kenya and East Africa that includes a series of IT-related initiatives to increase the level of coordination and information sharing through- out the network of anti-trafficking groups in the region.

These programs will facilitate NGO coordination and increase linkages between civil society organizations, government officials, and institutions; improve the IT capacity of anti-trafficking groups; and promote bilateral and international networking to increase pressure and generate political support to address the problem


One of the goals of our initiative is to build linkages between isolated anti-trafficking groups across the region. Many of these groups maintain information that could be of tremendous value if shared with counterpart organizations. For example, many NGOs in rural areas will maintain a list of missing persons, especially those who are likely to be victims of trafficking. In cities that tend to be destinations of trafficking, several NGOs and authorities maintain information on victims who are currently seeking help. If the NGOs and authorities across the region (rural and urban) could share information, the victims could be put in contact with their families, and many of the cases on missing persons could be resolved.

As another example, there is no comprehensive list of anti-trafficking NGOs and relevant authorities across the region. If an NGO in Tanzania makes arrangements to return a victim to her home in Kenya, it is very difficult for them to identify local NGOs near the victim’s home that could facilitate the journey and contact the family.

Our main aim is development of a web portal on human trafficking, which will support information sharing and dissemination throughout the network of anti-trafficking groups. The portal will have both a secure intranet space for sharing sensitive information between anti-trafficking groups, as well as a public space for disseminating information.

The web portal will include the following content:

  1. Missing Persons Page — a listing of missing persons who are likely victims of trafficking,
  2. Mechanism to assist those survivors of trafficking who are seeking help.
  3. Laws and Regulations Page — an explanation of the laws and regulations in each country that pertain to Human Trafficking.
  4. Information Clearinghouse on Human Trafficking – a public web site containing reports of violence and trafficking incidents, research, survey findings, and relevant information from Southeast Asia.
  5. Listing of Anti-Trafficking Groups — a listing of the NGOs providing services to survivors (i.e. shelters, psychosocial counselors, legal aid, translators) and trusted authorities (i.e. police, prosecutors, attorneys, judges, government departments) who are working to address the problem of human trafficking, with regularly updated contact information.

This project will initially focus on Kenya Coast Province) particularly Kwale and eventually be expanded to other parts of East Africa. Based on user demands, additional content will be added over the course of the project.


Lack of reliable data and access to information is a recurring obstacle for coordination of protection efforts and services to victims of trafficking. In Kenya, the relationship between the police and communities is often characterized by mutual mistrust, which hinders protection of women and children. In order for coordination and Collaboration to take place in Kenya, information needs to be accurate, easily available, and secure. It is also essential that information is made accessible for advocacy efforts on trafficking, domestic violence, and rape.

To effectively raise the profile of the issue of violence against women and trafficking of women in the public domain and to make persuasive arguments to policymakers, NGOs must provide reliable statistics about the nature and scope of the problems.

Vitalis Otieno is the Director of Front End Technologies in South Coast, Mombasa, Kenya. His organization is developing a grassroots web platform project for the grassroots organizations working against human trafficking in Kenya. His email is

Eight foreigners seized as police uncover racket


Security personnel in Turkana have uncovered a human trafficking racket and arrested eight foreigners in a swoop on illegal immigrants.


The eight Ethiopians were arrested in a racket that involves some transporters and foreigners operating illegally in the country.

Turkana South district commissioner Joseph Kanyiri said the Ethiopians were arrested at Lokichar trading centre while travelling in a bus from Kakuma to Nairobi at the weekend.

“The racket involves a cartel of transport operators who capitalise on the porous border points to woo foreigners into the country at a fee,” explained Mr Kanyiri.

He said the Ethiopians had fake travel documents and could not communicate in either English or Kiswahili.

“Investigations indicate that the transport operators receive hefty payments after safely delivering the foreigners to their destinations, especially Nairobi and Mombasa,” added the DC.

The driver of the bus that the foreigners were travelling in was arrested and would be prosecuted.

“It is wrong for bus and lorry operators to assist immigrants into the country as some of them have criminal records,” warned Mr Kanyiri.

Hundreds of foreigners were arrested in the North Rift last year in a swoop on illegal immigrants.


Police seize 32 illegal immigrants on road


Thirty two illegal immigrants were on Tuesday arrested at Wang’uru on the Embu-Nairobi highway.

Police intercepted four vehicles transporting eight Ethiopians and 24 Somalis from Moyale, where they are suspected to have entered the country illegally.

The foreigners were later driven to the Central provincial police headquarters in Nyeri, to await prosecution.

Unkempt and exhausted

The immigrants, most of them youths, appeared unkempt and exhausted.

Central PPO John M’Mbijjiwe said the officers intercepted the vehicles after receiving a tip-off from the public.

Mr M’Mbijjiwe said four men who were driving the vehicles were also arrested and would be charged with human trafficking.

The police boss said detectives were on high alert following what appears to be an entrenched human trafficking syndicate in the country.

On Monday, another 17 illegal immigrants were seized at Kambiti, a few kilometres from Wang’uru.

The latest arrest brings to 55 the number of foreigners seized in the past two weeks.

The immigrants pay traffickers to smuggle them into the country and to Nairobi where they acquire fake Kenyan passports which they use to travel to other parts of the world. Others are trafficked to southern Africa by road.

Elsewhere, police shot dead a gangster and recovered a pistol from him.

Police in Kiambu said the suspect was in a group of three who refused to heed orders to stop.

Central provincial police spokesman Francis Kumut said the gang was spotted at Ongata Rongai in a vehicle that had been used in a series of robberies in the area.


Police grapple with influx of poor Ethiopians

Illegal immigrants from Ethiopia crowded inside a single room at a house in Ngong Town on June 23, 2010. Photo/FILE
Illegal immigrants from Ethiopia crowded inside a single room at a house in Ngong Town on June 23, 2010. Photo/FILE
By JOHN NJAGI jnjagi@ke.nationmedia.comPosted Thursday, January 6 2011 at 19:54

For quite a long while, Kenya has become a haven for illegal Ethiopian immigrants fleeing their country in search of a better life.

The immigrants are entering Kenyan in droves, presenting a security and logistical nightmare for security agents.

These foreigners access the country through the porous border in Moyale and proceed to northern and upper eastern Kenya.

Tales of Ethiopians being arrested, prosecuted and others repatriated in their hundreds have become legion in Moyale and Isiolo.

The Nation has learnt that the Ethiopians, mostly youths, are fleeing their country for South Africa, where they hope to find jobs.

It is believed those who have successfully used this illegal route and landed in South Africa, are urging their countrymen to try their luck, creating a frenzy among the jobless and poverty-stricken Ethiopians to join the band wagon.

Since Ethiopia is a landlocked country, the immigrants prefer Kenya, its southern neighbour and not Eritrea to the north, Sudan to the west and Djibouti and Somalia to the east, some of which are traditionally hostile.

The “smuggling” of Ethiopians is lucrative and has become a cash cow for “hired” transporters and other brokers who arrange transport, safe houses and other logistics until the immigrants reach their destination.

End the menace

Kenyans involved in this illegality, have, however, not been left out by police in their efforts to end the menace, as they are often charged alongside the immigrants. Smuggling of humans is outlawed locally and internationally.

The UN outlaws any form of human exploitation for financial gain either through forced labour or sexually.

Like human trafficking, people smuggling is listed as a serious crime and differs with the former where people, especially women and children, are sold for sexual or labour exploitation.

The latter involves people voluntarily paying a smugglers to covertly transport them from one location to another.

In this case, mostly young Ethiopians are said to sell family property or personal belongings and pay smugglers to take them to preferred destinations where they hope to land jobs and get financial breakthrough.

Security officials are struggling to seal the loopholes used by the immigrants and have identified areas such as Forore and Turkana along the porous Ethiopia-Kenya border in Moyale District as the most notorious.

The foreigners are said to avoid the lengthy screening process at designated border entry points where the government also puts a cap on the number of Ethiopians allowed into the country at a particular time.

“Traditionally, the country does not require Ethiopians to acquire visas when visiting the country, but most of them enter the country illegally to beat rigorous immigration requirements,” says Upper Eastern deputy provincial commissioner Wenslas Ong’wayo.

To make it to Nairobi, where they travel by road to Tanzania, Mozambique and eventually South Africa, the illegal immigrants and their transporters have devised ways to evade police road blocks.

Evade road blocks

Mr Ong’wayo says despite the fact that there are about five road blocks from Moyale to Isiolo, the Ethiopians still manage to evade them by trekking for several kilometres through the bushes and boarding a vehicle where there are no police barriers.

But despite the transporters’ ingenuity to escape police traps, security officers say they have arrested an estimated 2,000 Ethiopian immigrants since the beginning of the year.

New bid to curb the human trafficking of Somalis

Somalia and Kenya will join forces to combat the trafficking of desperate Somalis.


Somalia’s ambassador to Kenya Mohamed Ali Nur said well connected cartels on the Kenya-Somalia border charge huge sums of money to bring into Kenya hundreds of Somalis.

Mr Nur said the racketeers demand between $1,500 (Sh120,000) and $2,000 (Sh160,000) to smuggle a person into Kenya in transit to South Africa and Europe.

He said the traffickers lured youths with promises of jobs, education and a better life abroad.

Parents sold their property, including houses and land to afford the huge payments, Mr Nur said.

He said he had held talks with Kenyan Foreign Affairs officials and Coast police boss Aggrey Adoli over joint operations.

“We have decided to work together as trafficking has risen to alarming levels,” he said, adding:

“These cartels are fleecing desperate Somalis with promises of jobs and a better life in South Africa and Europe.”

The diplomat said Somalis were risking their lives in desperate attempts to flee the war-torn country.

“A few days ago, about 50 Somalis died when their boat sank off the Mozambique coast.

“Scores of women are being raped and we are determined to root out the horrific incidents,” the ambassador said.

Mr Nur later addressed 82 young Somalis destined for Daadab refugee camp.

The ambassador warned the immigrants to be wary of human traffickers and urged them to educate their parents on the need to follow proper procedures when seeking asylum in Europe and other countries of Africa.

Kenya asked to help smash cartels trafficking Somalis into country

By GALGALO BOCHA And MATHIAS RINGA mringa@ke.nationmedia.comPosted Monday, February 7 2011


  • Culprits pocket huge sums of money from the desperate Somalis who are promised jobs and better life in South Africa and US, says ambassador of war-torn country


Somalia is seeking Kenya’s assistance to smash cartels that traffic hundreds of desperate Somalis into the country.

The cartels, according to Somali ambassador Mohamed Ali Nur, take advantage of the insecurity in the war-torn country to smuggle Somalis into Kenya at hefty fees.

Those behind the illegal activity, he said, make huge amounts of money from the Somalis fleeing war after they are promised jobs and a better life in South Africa and the United States.

Mr Nur said the culprits also rape the women they attempt to bring into Kenya, adding that so far there were four victims in Nairobi.

Investigating cases

The embassy is investigating several cases where women were raped and their property stolen, he added.

“We have several cases where men, women and children were abandoned in the middle of nowhere,” he said in an interview with the Nation on Monday.

“That is why the transitional Somali government is seeking assistance from Kenya so that the people behind this scam can be brought to book.”

Last year alone, close to 2,000 Somalis were arrested in several parts of Coast Province, mainly Msambweni, while being ferried by private motorists along Lunga Lunga Road.

The bulk of the victims were young Somalis who confirmed to security agencies that they were on their way to South Africa, from where they would move to European countries in search of jobs.

The ambassador hinted that he would seek audience with the police to raise the concern of President Sheikh Ahmed’s Transitional Federal Government on the matter.

“I am looking forward to getting an appointment with senior police officials in Coast Province to also hear their side of story,” he said.

He appealed to the Kenyan Government to release 63 suspected illegal immigrants being held at the Central Police Station in Mombasa, saying the majority were aged 12 and 15.

The children and adults, he said, should be taken to refugee camps in Kenya since deporting them would cause a lot of misery as peace was still elusive.

Taken to refugee camps

“We appeal to the Kenyan Government to release the children who are being held at a Mombasa police station so that they can be taken to refugee camps,” he said.

He, however, called on Somalis who intend to travel to Kenya to ensure they had legal documents to avert arrest.


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