Why Kibaki should sign anti-trafficking Bill

East African Standard Published on 19/08/2010

President Kibaki should urgently sign the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Bill 2010 into law, and give legal teeth to efforts at countering the growing trafficking of human beings.

Kenya according to the United Nations has become a major transit point for human beings tricked or coerced into slavery. By signing the Bill, the President would bring Kenya in line with the UN Convention Against Organised Crime. The Bill proposes life sentences on traffickers working with organised crime syndicates.

The minimum sentence and fine prescribed in the Bill are 15 years and Sh5 million, with repeat offenders getting life imprisonment. Even more importantly, victims will be able to claim restitution for medical and psychological treatment in courts. It also offers immunity for victims from prosecution for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked. The Government will have to set up a National Assistance Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking, which will use assets seized from traffickers as restitution.

If the Bill were already law, Mr Robinson Simiyu Mkwama would demand compensation from Mr Nathan Mutei for trying to sell him to headhunters looking to kill him for body parts.

Mutei received swift justice in Mwanza, Tanzania on Wednesday, getting a 16-year jail term from the resident magistrate for abducting Mkwama and trying to sell him to a witchdoctor for Sh20 million.

The sentence represents a new resolve by Tanzania to stamp out killings of albinos, who suffer discrimination due to a genetic imperfection that causes a lack of skin pigmentation. Apart from being ostracised by many, they are now being kidnapped and killed for their body parts to be used as talismans by people seeking to get rich. The targeting of albinos to head hunters in Tanzania is the darkest side of human trafficking in Kenya and the larger east African region.

Headhunters are offering what amounts to unbelievable riches to anyone willing to provide albinos for sacrifice, and is partly fanned by the absence of harsh legislation to deter would-be offenders.

Albinos Threatened

This trade in albinos is fuelled by prejudice reinforced by the false claims that albinos are gifted with supernatural powers. The border area between Burundi and Tanzania is now the ‘kill zone’ of albinos, with a graphic rise in murders over the last two years.

Hundreds of albino children and teenagers are now living in schools for the disabled protected by the police in Tanzania, or in temporary camps built by the Burundi army.

A report on their plight by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies entitled Through Albino Eyes makes depressing reading on the depths of human depravity. The Bill that President Kibaki is yet to sign into law would bring Kenya in line with Tanzania, where a rise in killings forced the Government into action.

But the trafficking of albinos is just one part of a dark business in which human lives and welfare count for nothing. Protection for victims of human trafficking in Kenya are inadequate and even the current laws, limited as they may be in scope, are not fully enforced.

Recently, this newspaper ran a feature that exposed how girls aged between 10 and 16 years were found abandoned outside the offices of a bus company by traffickers who had lured them from Tanzania with offers of plum jobs.

They were lucky: in most cases, such victims end up as sex slaves in the middle east, or are forced into prostitution.

And just the other day, up to 30 Ethiopian nationals were rescued from a house in the city which was being used by traffickers as a halfway house for their human cargo.

This legislation would eventually make Kenya less appealing to trafficking syndicates.

 

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