Radicalization of Youth in Mombasa, Kenya – Quo Vadis?

By: Paul Adhoch – Trace Kenya*

The first cases of Kenyan youth radicalization, recruitment and trafficking for militia and Al-Shabaab fighting in Somalia was reported in 2006 by civil society organizations in Mombasa and Nairobi. Some places in Mombasa and Nairobi formed the foci of these activities. With time these radicalization activities took root in the country. At that time the government of Kenya took a dim view of the Civil Society Organizations reports and dismissed them as “mere propaganda and alarmist”. There were vehement denials across the country concerning such recruitments. Four years later, the government acknowledged the fact that youth were actually being recruited for terrorist activities generally; in Al-Shabaab and have also been convicted for partaking in the terrorist activities. A number of youth are now serving lengthy jail terms for being members of terrorist groups.

In October 2011, the government of Kenya sent the military (Kenya Defense Forces) to Somalia to fight Al-Shabaab and to support the international community on war on terror. Even then the government acknowledged that this was an uphill task with the assistant minister for internal security Mr. Orwa Ojode (RIP) claiming that the terror group had its tail in Somalia and its head in Eastleigh. A year later, Kismayu, an Al-Shabaab strongpoint was captured.
The military (KDF), is still in Somalia to-date with “no exit plan” according to the Cabinet Secretary on Defence Ms Rachel Omamo. The presence of the KDF in Somalia seemed to have increased local soft target terrorist activities in Kenya best witnessed in the Westgate Mall attack last year. There have been numerous soft target attacks including churches, restaurants, and public transport mainly in Nairobi, Mombasa, Garissa and Mandera cities. These are considered as revenge attacks as a result of KDF activities in Somalia. Other countries except Uganda with a similar military expedition in Somalia have not faced similar attacks. One may ask why the Al-Shabaab revenge attacks have been severe in Kenya? It is a fact too that Ethiopia has a large contingent of its defense forces in Somalia, yet they are not subject to same severity despite their proximity to Somalia.

Part of the answer lies in the fact that i. unlike her neighbours, Uganda, and Burundi except Ethiopia, Kenya has a large border with Somalia. ii. Kenyan and Somali citizens, have also intermarried and live mainly in the four cities in Kenya that have suffered the brunt of attacks. iii. There is a huge population of refugees. Urban refugees are resident mainly in Nairobi and Mombasa. iv. There are also indications that the terror group has its sympathizers in the country. v. Kenya is also seen as a strategic ally of the western countries hence attacking it sends a strong message globally.

In seeking to address the above concerns, the Kenya government has initiated a concerted effort to flush out illegal immigrants living in Mombasa and Nairobi. This effort was started in the early weeks of April 2014. The effort has elicited opposition by several citizens who see it as harassment of innocent citizens. The condemnation has been extended to the fact that house searches are undertaken without warrants and the fact that one ethnic group is being targeted. This has made the Kenyans of Somali origin to live in fear. On the other hand a number of citizens are supportive of these swoops – as a result of the recent terror activities. They also claim that criminals have also come to the limelight as a result of the swoops.

The government has also since March 2014 i. ordered the return of all Somali refugees from Daadab Camp – the largest of the camps, back to Somalia. This has equally met some resistance from some local and international humanitarian organizations who wish to have a structured and secure return for the refugees. ii. Some members of the Kenyan parliament have insisted that the camp be re-located into Somalia territory, from whence the refugees can find their way to their respective homes in Somalia.

While the above approaches may reach some success as far as dealing with external terrorists is concerned, dealing with home grown terrorism is more difficult. The philosophy of terror groups lies in promoting radical ways to address issues. These groups have also radicalized youth to violently eject Imams not buying into radical philosophies, destroy churches, actively and violently demonstrate against the state and display intolerance to “non-believers”. Terror activities have a potential of undermining the stability of Islam in the coastal region and Kenya in general. They also present a possible route to sectarian violence such as that witnessed in Nigeria through Boko Haram. Matters are not made any better by the fact that many youth in this category are of modest formal education.

Radicalism poisons young people who are later trafficked to be trained to undertake terrorist activities. Some leading Islamic scholars have called for re-education of the youthful terrorist returnees. They have also called for deepening of scholarship to Imams so as to counsel and guide the youth on the true meaning of the term “jihad”. In 2013, 160 Muslims scholars declared a fatwa (decree) on Al-Shabaab in Mogadishu. They will congregate again later in 2014 to evaluate the progress of the decree. It would also be important for these leaders to think of different measures to dissolve radicalization and start a gradual process of rehabilitating, reintegrating and educating those finding themselves in terror acts. They should also think of permanent preventative activities.
In the meantime, the government of Kenya must of necessity, ensure that population harmed by terror activities do not grow their own fundamentalists’ groups as a result of anger. Continuous prevention is a must. The police and all concerned should continue strengthening security at all times. It is important however that human rights are respected in all process. Secondly, there is need for proper reintegration and reabsorption of the former terrorist youth through trauma and psychological accompaniment be they in the prisons or elsewhere.

*The writer is the Director of Trace Kenya. Trace Kenya is a counter trafficking in persons NGO based in Mombasa, Kenya.



By Paul Adhoch

On 3rd December 2013, the Jubilee government quietly reviewed the ban placed on the export of domestic workers to the Middle East and the Persian Gulf Countries. The Grand Coalition government had banned the same in September 2012, following hue and cry by many exploited returnee in the preceding years. In undertaking this action, the Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary did no communicate any new guidelines or modalities that have been put in place to warrant their action. Whatever informed the government, there is need to understand the context of the ban and the subsequent actions taken by the Kibaki administration.

Let us contextualize this situation. The Persian Gulf countries have a visa system called the Kafala. The system ties the employee to the employer for the duration of the contract, often two years, which is prone to abuse and exploitation. Whereas there may be many good employers, often, employees are overworked, underpaid, their passports confiscated, their communication back home restricted, no leave nor allowances for such and no off duties, local contacts curtailed for the entire period of their contracts – in many cases at least two years, In some instances, the employer forbids the employee from going back home allegedly to repay some lost hours or household item destroyed or some ruse of a similar nature. An employee who runs away to seek help from such exploitation would often find themselves in detention camps as undocumented workers without much hope of assistance – This is, by any definition, modern day slavery.

In 2008, Bahrain was the first country to claim to repeal the kafala system at which time the Labor Minister equated it to “slavery”. Effective August 2009, there were changes in the Labor Market Regulations, allowing among others, the employee to give quit notices of up to 3 months, and change employees and even nature of work, review contracts against what they signed for, renegotiate terms and conditions and so on and so forth. Thus Bahrain became a “free country” as opposed to the other emirates and kingdoms in the Persian Gulf. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for instance, the employer must give explicit permission to an employee for legitimacy status in the country. This has often been abused by some unscrupulous employers well in contravention of Article 13 of the United Nations Conventions of Human Rights.

Due to the impending FIFA world Cup 2022, Qatar has been forced to review its labor practices following pressure from the football body and human rights organizations. As at 2010, 94% of workers in manual jobs were from the Far East and often faced exploitative work practices, including need for permission to open bank accounts, rent a house, or even just make a short travel to visit friends. The situation has been remedied by the FIFA program.

At this moment in time, and perhaps this is what informed the Foreign Affairs Office in Nairobi, there is a huge opportunity for domestic labour and low skilled labour in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, besides the lower cadre workers in the rest of the Middle East. In KSA for instance, just recently, the Kingdom expelled close to 139,000 low cadre Ethiopian workers, including 45,000 female domestic workers considered undocumented. At the same time, Qatar is busy shaping up for the FIFA 2012 games and need many semi-skilled and unskilled fundis, hence the frenzy by Middle East based and local Employment Agents to recruit for this labour gap.

In the face of all this, we wish to make the following proposals: While the ban may not have served much purpose anyway, the current unbanning may not be wise either. However, the Cabinet secretaries for Foreign Affairs and Labour matters should concertedly ensure that all domestic workers and other workers exported to the Middle East and to any foreign country for that matter are regularized through the relevant Kenyan Embassies. The recent South Sudan scenario may have served as a good reference case. Secondly; that recruitment agents are compelled to translate terms and conditions of employment and ensure these are understood by prospective employees, including exit clauses in the event of any exploitative circumstances. Third that the government uses its bilateral and multilateral leverage to protect citizens through the establishment of a Labour Market Regulatory Authority in the line with the Bahrain example rather than have a kafala-like arrangement for Kenyan workers. In fact, Kenyans are basically running the Aviation and Hospitality insustry in some emirate countries at middle level management; something that can be pursued at government to government level to ensure job opportunity for many qualified citizens. Finally, that the Kenya Association of Private Employment Agencies seek to root out unscrupulous agents who use falsehood to recruit workers in contravention of the katiba and the Counter Trafficking in Persons Act 2010.

Gender based violence against men needs to be addressed

This article looks at  gender based violence directed against men.  Some of the abuses here seem extreme as they are perpetrated in situations of conflict, however they are used to illustrate the nature of SGBV experienced by men. Picture source

By Millicent Agutu

It is a fact that daily there could be an act of violence against some men at a domestic level etc. In Kenya for example there are various media stories of men being battered by their wives, injured or even being killed. There are unconfirmed reports too showing that some men after buying investments for their families get killed by their  wives who seek  for freedom. It ends recommending that organizations should equip themselves to addressing the needs of such victims be it domestic or other forms of violence.

According to various institutional and media reports of Sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) perpetrated against men have increased. However, response to these reports has been limited, as existing evidence and programs have primarily focused on prevention and response to women and girl survivors of GBV. Communities and organizations are not equipped to deal with male survivors of sexual and gender violence because it undermines the ideals of social constructions of masculinity. Compared with females, male survivors lack access to reproductive health programs and are generally ignored in gender-based violence discourse. Yet, male survivors are known to suffer from numerous physical injuries and psychosocial disorders.

SGBV perpetrated against men and boys often go unreported by survivors due to socio-cultural factors associated with sexual assaults, including survivor shame, fear of retaliation by perpetrators and stigma by community members. In Kenya too during the post electoral violence period of 2008, there were many reports of violence against men in the form of forced circumcision, rapes and other humiliating experiences of a sexual nature. Before discussing the impact the victims go through, we look at the various forms of abuses against males that have been the subjects of various reports and media.

Rape – A number of different forms of male rape do take place. Victims may be forced to perform fellatio on their perpetrators or on one another; perpetrators may anally rape victims themselves, using objects, or force victims to rape fellow victims. At times victims are been ‘made to masturbate their culprits orally’ or rape each other in front of their perpetrators. At times too victims are  forced to commit acts of incest.  There is also the notion of ‘rape plus’, the ‘plus’ being HIV/AIDS, or another consequence of rape, which may have been the very purpose for the rape in the first place.

Enforced Sterilization – Enforced sterilization largely comprises castration and other forms of sexual mutilation. Castrations are performed through the use of crude means such as, forcing one victim to bite off another’s testicles, chopping them off or through pulling off the testicles.

Genital ViolenceThere are cases where victims private parts are hit or subjected to electric shocks. There are instances of forced circumcisions.

Enforced Nudity – The most common way of sexually humiliating men is forcing them to strip naked in public. There are reports of men being made to repeatedly undress and dress, undress and stand naked for periods of time and undress in public or forcing males to wear women underwears and bras; taking pictures and video taping them in explicit sexual positions.

Enforced Masturbation – There are also cases where groups of male detainees are forced to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped or being forced to masturbate their captors. The forced masturbation of the victim and the perpetrator is considered to be one of the most common forms of sexual violence experienced by men.

Therapists working with men who were sexually abused in childhood  report findings such as guilt and self-blame; low self-esteem and negative self-image, Problems with intimacy; sexual problems; compulsions;  or dysfunctions; substance abuse and depression and symptoms of post-traumatic Stress disorder. Societies should create ways and means of helping male victims of SGBV deal with their pain. However, Kenya as a society tends to have a few facilities to address problems of SGBV affecting men.

The article summarizes Lydia Maingi’s presentation on Addressing male gender based violence  presented at the First International Conference Against Gender Based Violence, Kenyatta University from 1st to 3rd August 2012.

Kenyans in Saudi to get better working conditions

Nation September 25  2012 

Kenyans headed to Saudi Arabia for jobs could soon find better working conditions and less harassment by their employers.

A framework on how to manage the transfer of labour from the country to the Asian country is in the offing.

The Saudi Arabian government is set to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Kenyan government on  the intricate issue of labour work force.

The memorandum will also be signed alongside another one on tourism, according to Saudi Arabian ambassador to Kenya Mr Ghorm Malhan.

Hundreds of jobless Kenyans have found themselves in hostile territory when they leave the country for  Saudi Arabia after being lured by unscrupulous agencies.

Most of them seeking unskilled jobs have been abused and locked up in highly protected homes and only manage to escape and return home as refugees.

The MOU is expected to address these issues and ensure a fair and acceptable system where Kenyans will be able to seek legitimate jobs in the oil-rich country.

Mr Malhan further said Saudi Arabia was working on more economically viable trade partnerships with the country.

“We are working on modalities to export livestock from Kenya to our country,” Mr Malhan said.

The ambassador was addressing guests during celebrations of the Saudi Arabian National Day at the Laico Regency Hotel Monday night.

Foreign affairs ministry ordered by speaker to rescue a trafficked victim in Saudi Arabia

Daily Nation, 4th October 2012

Foreign Affairs assistant minister Richard Onyonka has been directed to accompany Juja MP William Kabogo to Saudi Arabia to rescue a woman reported to be detained by her employer. Read (Kenyans in Saudi to get better working conditions)

National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende said it was the best thing to do to save Ms Rosemary Wariera Nduati, said to be undergoing serious maltreatment in the hands of her employer, in Saudi Arabia.

Mr Kabogo has been pursuing the matter on the floor of Parliament without success. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs only responded by saying it had not made progress to reach the woman.

However, Mr Kabogo put the ministry to shame after tabling in Parliament a recording of a conversation he said he had had with the woman on telephone.

The woman makes desperate cries in the conversation calling out for assistance.

Mr Kabogo said he managed to trace and reach the woman through his own efforts.

He told his colleagues in yesterday’s parliamentary sessions that he engaged a private detective who traced the girl after unsuccessfully trying to engage the ministry.

“I gave the ministry the recording but they have done nothing,” said an exasperated Kabogo. He said the girl cries in the conversation saying she only eats left overs and pleads to be rescued.

The Speaker granted the MP’s request to have the minister for Foreign Affairs accompany him to Jeddah to bring the girl back home.

The minister was directed to plan for, and make the trip with the MP within two weeks and report back to the House. The ministry will also cater for the MP’s travel expenses.

“I advise that you do so within 14 days from today, travel with the MP and come back to this House with a report,” ordered the House Speaker.

The minister was at the same time ordered to investigate and report back to Parliament within the same period allegations that some officers in the ministry were collecting money from gullible Kenyans and taking them to Saudi Arabia where some are reported to be ending up in slavery.

Mr Kabogo claimed that in the case of Ms Nduati, the ministry had all the information it required to take action, including details of the persons holding her, but had done nothing about it.

“There is a cartel making money through this thing in the ministry,” he said.

Mr Onyonka, responding to questions about the case, claimed the Kenyan ambassador in Jeddah was overwhelmed and lacked the capacity to follow up on the cases.

“The ambassador has really been working tirelessly; he has tried his best but these cases have been very many. It is hard to trace some cases,” he said.

He added that the ambassador was yet to get Ms Nduati’s travel documents from the Ministry of Immigration in Jeddah.

The assistant minister said he too had heard about “rumours” about corrupt officials in the ministry involved in the Saudi manpower export business, but could not confirm them.

“I have nothing substantive to qualify the allegations,” he said.

Last month, the assistant minister told Parliament the ministry was not aware that Ms Nduati was missing.

He said her employer’s telephone number provided by the Juja MP was passed on to the Embassy in Riyadh and it had tried on several occasions to reach the woman, but in vain.

He advised Ms Nduati’s next of kin to contact the recruitment agency that arranged for her to travel to Saudi Arabia to provide the ministry with alternative contacts of the employer, so that the ministry “could try and see whether it could reach her”.

There has been an increase in reports of harsh working conditions for domestic workers in Saudi Arabia as well as more cases of mistreatment.

Reports include slave-like conditions, torture and even death in the countries where Kenyans go to work.

However, the assistant minister defended the labour export saying not all Kenyans who go to the Middle East end up in cruel hands.

He added that househelps formed a very small fraction of Kenyans seeking employment in the Middle East.

“There are many Kenyans who are working peacefully and earning a decent living in many countries within the Arab World and, indeed, globally,” he said.

The minister said cases of maltreatment are unique “in the sense that they have been one-offs.”

In response to the numerous cases of cruelty, the Government suspended recruitment of domestic workers to the Middle East, specifically to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The ministry said this will be until it streamlines the recruitment of Kenyans to make sure that none is further harmed.

MPs have declared the cases human trafficking cases.

Challenges of decriminalising sex work

East Africa Standard By Beverline Ongaro June 5 2012

A Kenya National Commission on Human Rights report ‘Realising sexual and reproductive right; a reality or a myth’ had interesting findings and recommendations on sex workers that has unfortunately not generated debate it deserves; rather the focus especially, in the media has been on same-sex relations.

The report’s recommendations in relation to sex workers are a contradiction of some sort and will make eunuch the efforts to the safeguard of the dignity of sex workers. On one hand, the report recommends decriminalisation and regulation of voluntary sex work for men and women to make the practice safe for the sex workers and clients.

On the other hand, it calls for implementation of a counter-trafficking law to be implemented fully to eradicate instances of forced sex work.

The fact that these recommendations were made side by side demonstrates that there is no dialectical appreciation of how sex work and human trafficking for sexual exploitation are almost intrinsically linked. Human trafficking has become unfortunate social reality that is fuelled by sex work. This is on account it is not possible to fully regulate and ensure sex work is safe.

How feasible is it to differentiate forced and voluntary sex? Persons with licences to permit sex work within in their premises would just easily engage in human trafficking for sexual exploitation by stating that all women and men in their premises work there voluntary.

This leads to the question as to whether the booths should be installed with surveillance cameras including when sex workers are serving clients and hence raises the concern on right to privacy for both of them.

In other jurisdictions, notably Amsterdam with its ‘progressive’ laws have had to contend with these concerns especially after noting that sex work is purveyor to trafficking for sexual exploitation. Most of the workers had been trafficked and were abused even within booths with installed cameras.

And the demand side?

There were reported incidents of sex workers subjected to inhumane treatment. These forlorn states of affairs have been discussed by various stakeholders at international and regional levels. Notably culminating to a communiqué, “Global Efforts to Eradicate Violence and Discrimination against Women and Girls: A Discussion in Combating Sex Trafficking in Eastern Africa September 2009 in Nairobi” that was drawn by civil society organisations speared headed by Equality Nown.

The communiqué in line with singular observation and approach by human rights activists advocates for enactment and implementation of laws that criminalise the ‘customers’ to deal with the demand side of prostitution rather than simple blanket decriminalisation and regulation of prostitution. It would have been expected that Commission could have at least moved towards this direction.

Its quest for safe practice of sex workers will remain a Chimera for it failed to address how discrimination and inhumane treatment of sex workers is fuelled by the nomenclature-prostitution: the prevailing perception is that prostitutes evoke inhumane treatment towards them.

This invariably determines whether sex workers have access to reproductive health services from a society that perceives them as ignoble persons.

The report classified sex workers as sex minorities without analysing the plight of sex workers that would classify them as such. This makes the quest for freedom from discrimination and equality of sex worker to be pseudo- equality.

There is need to re-examine the plight of sex workers in prevailing local, regional and international settings, otherwise human rights abuses and violations will continue.

Standard 20th June: No one should be coerced into prostitution

There are some men and women who choose to work as sex workers. And there are those voices actively lobbying for Government to legalise it, ostensibly to “cut out the middlemen” to reduce slavery and child prostitution since all sex workers will be identifiable by the authorities. But that is not our focus today.

Those not forced into prostitution find themselves in the vice because they believe it is the only thing they have of value. They claim that they are the ones in control, or that it is a mere physical act.

That should not be confused with freedom of choice. It is a severe lack of self-esteem. Prostitution is heartbreaking and degrading, and is forced sexual slavery, for no right thinking individual wants to hawk their body.

In this regard, at the risk of being seen to be part of the enlightened lot that would like prostitution legalised, we shall defend the right of anyone to choose prostitution, but criminalise those forcing anyone into such bondage.

To avoid sub judice of a recent court case where a parent “leased out” her daughter to a paedophile, we can still cite daily reports of defilement of minors, and human trafficking for purposes of profit.

Our laws are clearly against these practices but as long as long as men are allowed to think they should access sexual services for the most competitive price they can negotiate, it will be hard to stamp out suppliers seeking to service this demand.

Debase their dignity

We must, however, draw the line where adults take advantage of children for self-gratification and in blatant disregard of their human rights, debase their dignity, leave them diseased, pregnant, out-of-school, bruised and psychologically traumatised.

Perhaps, legislation should be amended to hand out stiffer sentencing to offenders. Silence is akin to collusion and paints us as a morally deficient generation that could not stand up for the future citizens of this brave new world.

Kenya: New Book on the Difficulties faced by Sex Workers Out

East African Standard by Goro wa Kamau 18th August 2012

Title: A Walk at Midnight

Author: Catherine Wanjohi

Publisher: Life Bloom Services International 

Please visit this site to get in touch with the author

A Walk at Midnight is the story of the author’s journey with sex workers as she attempts to rehabilitate and inspire them with a new sense of dignity and wholesomeness. It is a journey driven by a need to give these abused women and girls a second chance in life.

It all begun quite dramatically in 2002 when the author, then a principal in a girls’ secondary school found a letter from a parent addressed to her on her desk. The parent who was HIV-positive wrote: “Teacher, you’ve been very kind to me and my girls and I am sorry I wasn’t able to attend the parents meeting last weekend … I have been sick … I don’t know how long I will live. Should I die soon, I will live my daughters with you.” Why would a dying woman have the confidence to write such a letter to her daughters’ school principal?

The letter was traumatising. Now Wanjohi understood why the youngest of the woman’s daughters had asked for permission to go to hospital in Nairobi and why she had attempted suicide when the permission was denied.

She arranged visit the ailing woman together with her daughter. After the visit, the author wondered how many of her students may be similarly affected by HIV/Aids only to discover there were several of them. The author responded by supporting the establishment of peer counselling clubs in her school. Catherine Gathoni, the girl who had just recently attempted suicide, became one of the most active participants in these clubs. She has told her story in the book Can Scars Become Stars?

The author learnt from the girls in the peer counselling clubs about the kind of homes most of her students came from — broken homes mostly headed by poor women for whom paying school fees was a struggle. In addition, those mothers who were infected with HIV/Aids had to deal with problems of social stigma. From then on any time a female parent came to see her she encouraged her to share what other story she might be holding back.

“The stories were often about negligent and irresponsible husbands, early marriages, poverty and single parenthood — voices of what really happened at home, in the family, in our society. Issues that could not be addressed in the narrow confines of the school compound.”

This realisation culminated in the author’s resignation from her school principal’s job. She founded Life Bloom Services International, an organisation through which she started working with sex workers.

Attempted suicide

At the start, it was a baptism of fire, a personally traumatising experience. A Walk at Midnight documents the lives of numerous abused women and girls who are forced to work on the streets of our cities and towns peddling their flesh in an effort to feed their children and often-poor families. Abused and stigmatised, most of these women have to be high on alcohol and drugs in order to numb their minds and conscience against the violence meted on them by their customers and law enforcement agencies.

The book is full of touching anecdotes from the lives of these abused women. Beyond the fear of the consequences of reckless, sometimes unprotected sex, their daily encounters with criminals and other shadowy characters that prowl the sex dens and the violence that accompanies their lives, these women are our ordinary sisters. Like all mothers, they want a better life for their children.

The author, a co-traveller with these women in their struggles, documents how her Life Bloom International Services works closely with Government agencies such as hospitals, prisons, the Provincial Administration, the Church and owners of bars and lodgings in Naivasha and other places where her organisation is active. She ensures the sex workers get access to medical and spiritual care as well as dignified treatment from such agencies as the police when they, inevitably, get in trouble. Through her organisation, the author teams up with well-wishers to train the women in leadership and counselling, trade and vocations, reproductive health, peace-building, basic and computer literacy among a range of other employable skills in a bid to give the sex workers a second chance in life

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