Street children kill guard in night raid

Street children kill guard in night raid

Publication Date: 6/10/2008

One security guard was killed and another is fighting for his life at Coast General Hospital in Mombasa after a vicious attack by some street children, a police official said on Monday.

Mombasa police boss Patrick Wafula suspected that the street urchins might have attacked the guards at Nafasi Auto World since the assailants stole vehicle side mirrors and wipers.

Mr Wafula said the attackers set upon the guards, who were fast asleep at the yard that had more than 30 cars.

He said a security firm supervisor on patrol was shocked to find one of them dead and the other groaning in pain as he lay on the ground.

The police official said the assailants climbed over a wall before attacking the guards.


He said the dead man might have been strangled before being hit with a sharp object on the face.

Police, he added, will carry out a crackdown on the street children’s hideouts to apprehend the culprits.

In another case, two people who were arrested and detained for allegedly murdering an elderly man in Taveta have been set free after the court found that their detention was unconstitutional.

Syengo Motoka and Lawrence Kanyingi walked out of Shimo la Tewa Maximum Prison last month after spending eight years behind bars without being tried.

No evidence was brought before the court as the prosecution witnesses never turned up.

Ms Noel Adagi, representing the two suspects, on Monday told the court that her clients’ constitutional rights had been breached owing to the eight-year detention without trial.

Meanwhile, an application seeking to have a Zambian charged with the murder of a Zimbabwean woman released from jail will be heard in July.


The application, filed by Mr Kapwesha Cosmas Sampa through his lawyer Mutavi Maseki, will proceed on July 8.

The accused is being  charged with the murder of Ms Mary Tafa,  in Diani, Kwale, on November 13, 2004. Interpol were also linking the suspect so similar offences in South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


Street children get lifeline

Street children get lifeline

Publication Date: 4/11/2008

The Government will set up drop-in centres in major towns to serve as contact points for street children.

Dr Manu Chandaria, chair of the Street Children Rehabilitation Trust Fund, admires a basket made by former streetboys during the launch of the street families rehabilitation exhibition at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi on Thursday. Photo/STEPHEN

The centres will offer food and other facilities to attract the street children. Through this arrangement, social workers will have an opportunity to convince them to join rehabilitation programmes.

Local Government minister Uhuru Kenyatta said the first centres would be opened in Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa and Eldoret. This is a radical shift in strategy in dealing with street families who have in the past been forcibly  evicted from the streets.

The non-residential centres will also provide counselling, medical services and recreation for the children.

“Those targeted will visit the centres out of their own volition rather than being forced. There will be higher chances of success because such an approach will seek active collaboration of the targeted children and youth as opposed to forcefully taking them from the streets against their will,” Mr Kenyatta said in a speech read on his behalf by PS Solomon Boit during an exhibition to mark five years of a rehabilitation programme by his ministry.

The minister said the ministry would train 150 social workers to equip them with relevant skills to enable them handle rehabilitation programmes at the grassroots level.

He warned those who sold glue to the children to stop doing so as the police had been instructed to deal with them firmly.

Rapid urbanisation

He appealed to Kenyans to contribute towards the rehabilitation programme through the Street Families Rehabilitation Trust Fund under his ministry.

Mr Boit explained that the programme had been upgraded to a fully fledged department while its budget would be increased from the current Sh33 million to enable it undertake its mandate.

The chairman of the fund, businessman Manu Chandaria blamed rapid urbanisation and poverty for the street children menace in cities.

He called on Kenyans to take the children as their own as it was the only way to deal with the challenge.

Dr Chandaria called on the Government to speed up the purchase of a children’s centre in Nyeri and the development of a piece of land in Ruai  to house the children.

Meanwhile, a new study shows youths want politicians to urgently address the high levels of unemployment and runaway crime in most parts of the country.

The youths accuse the politicians of failing to prioritise the availability of condoms.

They also accused them of failing to address teenage pregnancies and abortion, among other reproductive health issues.

The study, which was conducted in the eight provinces last year, involved 1,949 respondents, Centre for the Study of Adolescence executive director Rosemary Muganda said Thursday.

Experts estimate that almost 250,000 adolescents abort annually.

A 2002 study by the Ministry of Health in 56 health facilities showed that four out of 10 of those who died of complications from abortion were adolescents under 19 years.

Some of the negative consequences associated with teenage pregnancies include high school drop-out rate or interrupted education, vulnerability to or participation in criminal activity, social ostracism and child neglect.

Violence causes number of street children to rise

Violence causes number of street children to rise

Publication Date: 4/4/2008

The number of street children has doubled in three major towns in the Rift Valley due to the post-election violence.

Regional children’s officer Abdi Yusuf, Thursday said there were more beggars, street children and even idling adults in Trans Nzoia’s Kitale Town, Eldoret in Uasin Gishu District and Nakuru Town.

There are over 47,000 children living at internal refugee camps in the province.

Mr Yusuf said the district with the highest number of children forced from their homes is the larger Nakuru with 15,000, followed by Trans Nzoia with 13,000, while Uasin Gishu has 9,000.

However, the children’s cannot give the actual numbers of street children because some spend all their time in the streets while others go to the camps at night.

Mr Yusuf said some children who are not refugees are taking advantage of the situation to abscond school and beg in the streets.

Good care

The children’s officer said there were programmes in place to ensure that the children were withdrawn from the streets and put under good care.

He said the provincial administration with the help of the Kenya Red Cross Society, UNICEF, Save the Children UK and World Vision had initiated a programme to help the displaced children.

He said most of separated minors had been placed in children’s homes while others have been re-united with their families through the assistance of the Kenya Red Cross tracing department.

The official said child protection committees had been formed in Nakuru and Eldoret to cater for the welfare of the displaced children and protect their rights and similar committees would be put in place in other districts.

Mr Yusuf said there were allegations of child abuse at camps but was quick to add that there was not factual information to enable the department take legal action.

Sh6bn water project to kick off, says envoy

Sh6bn water project to kick off, says envoy Sh6bn water project to kick off, says envoy

Publication Date: 3/17/2008

A Sh6 billion water and sanitation project for Coast region is set to kick off, French ambassador Elisabeth Barbier revealed at the weekend.

“It is a 50-50 project between the French Government and the World Bank where each team is contributing an equivalent of Sh3 billion towards its implementation,” said Ms Barbier.

The envoy said the French Government was also funding a solid waste management project that was under way.

She said the French Government had given Sh1.6 billion to the ministry of Local Government for the waste management projects at the Mombasa and Nakuru municipalities.

The Mombasa municipality would construct a recycling plant at Mwakirunge and a transfer unit at VOK, Bombolulu, in the North Coast.

Hasten project

Deputy mayor John Mcharo promised to fast-track the waste management project.

He reassured the envoy of the council’s seriousness in implementing the projects.

Mr Mcharo said the money which was released by the French Government mid last year had not been fully utilised.

Ms Barbier also inquired about street children rehabilitation project which her Government was keen to assist.

Mayor Ahmed Mohdhar said the issue was part of the agenda at the council’s next meeting.

Mr Mohdhar said the problem was not getting the street children off the streets but where to take them adding that the council could not address the issue alone and “maybe we can come back and seek assistance from your Government”.

Mombasa has approximately 500 street people.

Love’s indomitable spirit still alive and well in Kenya

Love’s indomitable spirit still alive and well in Kenya

Publication Date: 2/25/2008

…the story that touched me the most was the one of the street children who, instead of spending money on glue or food, took the initiative to buy a “get-well-soon” flower for a hospitalised friend on Valentine’s Day.

When people in Europe were giving their lovers expensive fresh-cut roses (many of which are grown in and exported from the blood-stained lakeside town of Naivasha), a group of 11-year-old street children in Nairobi decided to raise Sh50 to buy a flower for their friend Michael, who they had carried to the Nairobi Women’s and Children’s Hospital following a brutal sexual attack. Since then, they have been visiting their badly injured and traumatised fellow street child at least three times a day.

Nation columnist Mildred Ngesa, who covered the story, describes the compassion shown by the four street children – Kevin Kariuki, David Kuria, Andrew Mungalla and Wallace Mfoyonga – as “an enduring, undeniable lesson on living and loving”. It is a lesson we could all learn from at this turbulent point in our history.


Police force may recruit former street children

Police force may recruit former street children

Publication Date: 2/17/2008

Former street children who were sent to the National Youth Service might now find their way into the police force. This follows a decision by the government to increase the number of police officers and include NYS graduates during recruitment.

Ten thousand recruits who will be inducted into both the Kenya Police and Administration Police are scheduled to be vetted and jointly trained at the National Youth Service training college in Gilgil, where a group of street children were first rehabilitated and trained in 2003.

The recruitment officers have been instructed to consider the national diversity during the drive. Women will constitute 30 per cent of the new recruits. Already, 3,500 NYS graduates have been short-listed.

The decision to increase the number of police officers in the country was made during a meeting of Provincial Administration and Internal Security Permanent Secretary Mr Cyrus Gituai, Commissioner of Police, Maj-Gen Hussein Ali, Administration Police Commandant Mr Kinuthia Mbugua, the Director of National Youth Service Mr Japhet Mwania and a Senior Deputy Secretary in the office of the Head of Public Service early this month. The Head of the Civil Service Mr Francis Muthaura ordered the recruitment, which is expected to reduce the police to population ratio from the current 1:1,000 towards the global standard of 1:400. 

Mr Gituai is said to have asserted that the increase in the number of police officers was a matter of urgency and high priority.

Police spokesman Mr Eric Kiraithe said the inclusion of NYS graduates was meant to give the police force recruits who are already trained and have a tested disciplined record. The training given to NYS graduates and servicemen will enable police instructors accord the candidates significant credit hours hence the shorter training period.

The recruitment that is scheduled to be complete by the end of February will be conducted in two days by 10 teams headed by an assistant commissioner of police.

The first 5,000 recruits are expected to report for a four-month training session by the end of this February because of bed and bedding shortage. But the college is in the process of procuring double-decker beds to accommodate the entire number.

According to a source privy to the discussions held at the Office of the President a week ago, it was suggested that Mr Mwania, a career police officer, short-lists the first group of candidates that meet all police recruitment requirements. One has to have a national identity card and be aged between 18 and 25 years.

Holders of Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education certificates must have attained grade C-. The age limit for degree and diploma holders is 28 years. 

The recruits should not have a criminal record and should have passed an aptitude test. 

The NYS director is also expected to prepare another list of recruits with other qualifications like a good track record especially in sports.

Thirty-seven barracks for male recruits and 11 for female recruits have been prepared at the NYS training college.

The NYS will provide cooking facilities, shooting range, accommodation and classrooms while the police will prepare the syllabi, source and provide instructors and announce reporting dates.

The OP meeting also suggested that the 850 administration police officers attached VIPs be withdrawn and redeployed to provide security and leave the jobs to NYS-trained drivers.

The annual police recruitment exercise will be conducted later in the year.

Naivasha town bursting at the seams with street families

Naivasha town bursting at the seams with street families

Publication Date: 1/18/2008

Naivasha Town will soon be bursting at the seams with street children and street adults.

And thanks to a flourishing horticultural industry that has attracted many job seekers, the town’s population is exploding.

Many such job seekers end up in the back streets where they beg, bowl in hand. Those below 10 years station themselves at major shops soliciting for alms from shoppers, while others survive on dump sites from which they forage for food.

But there is order.

Newcomers who fail to adhere to the street rules are punished and the incorrigible ones driven out of town.

Own rules

“We have our own rules, regulations and guidelines,” says Peter Njoroge.

The streets have been zoned off into three different categories known as “base”, and depend on the age-group and experience in the streets.

“Those below 15 stay in an area named Kaduma (darkness), while older ones while away their day and night at Stage ya Unango (slang for Kinangop bus stop),” says Njoroge.

Being young and largely inexperienced, the Kaduma boys have perfected the art of begging while their Stage ya Unango counterparts are regarded as the “elite”.

The Kaduma street children are not allowed to stray into the territory of the older colleagues, unless they have an urgent message to deliver.

Those flouting the rules are beaten up by the “disciplinary committee” members.

Our visit to the territory attracted suspicious attention. Accompanied by Njoroge, we ventured into one of the bases during the interview, but Njoroge reassured me they meant no harm.

Unperturbed by the sweltering afternoon sun, several street boys had cans of glue firmly stuck to their mouths, while others were fast asleep, snoring.

Other shabbily dressed ones were intoxicated after sniffing glue, and were drooling over, mumbling incomprehensibly.

“This is Salmonde, which acts as our base,” said Njoroge, insisting they no longer went by the name of street children. “We regard ourselves as a street family due to our advanced age,” he adds.

The base is home to those aged 20 and above, the veterans of street life. Half are said to have spent the better part of their lives there.

Their leader is Pilato, and every member of the street family is answerable to him. He is a no-nonsense character who sets the rules to be followed.

His word

“He decides on the mode of discipline, depending of the nature of the offence,” said Njoroge. His word is law.

Those old enough to start a family are allowed to do so, but have to shift to a new home. Crime attracts a beating and a possible expulsion. But Njoroge admitted it was impossible to control all the street children, with their number now estimated at 400, and swelling.

Initiation into street life is brutal. If a newcomer survives the beating, he is considered tough enough to survive the rigorous of the streets.

Words like weedi, ganja, domu and gode, all slang for bhang, are commonplace, suggesting that drugs are a way of life. Boys smoke openly without fear of the authorities.

Njoroge said they were sometimes subjected to traumatising moments by police in case of theft in the area. “They make arbitrary arrests, on suspicion that we are behind these thefts,” he said.

The boys have started a robust dog selling business. According to Njoroge, they have more than 40 dogs that help them feed the group of over 30 lads.

The money from the sales is used for buying food, while any savings is used to bail out those arrested. They also use the money to pay for circumcision.

“We save. The dogs have a ready market, so we can buy food and bail out colleagues in trouble,” said 22-year-old Maulidi Asali.

A four-month old dog fetches Sh300 to Sh400. The dogs eat the same kind of food they eat — from the dustbins.

They know all dogs by name, and if they happen to lose one, they spend a sleepless night looking for it.

Woe unto their colleagues if they trace a dog to another base. That means territorial war that often gets bloody.

Njoroge said he had been spending nights in the cold for 15-years after he left home in Kinangop.

Now 25, he says he has no regrets. He left home at a tender age of 10, after his relatives continuously mistreated him following the death of his parents.

“I was treated like a pariah by my relatives and decided to seek greener pastures,” he said.

The street children rarely fall ill, even as they eat from the dustbin. “I’ve never been to a hospital for seven years,” says Maulidi with a wide grin.

Njoroge said their main challenge is to get an ID card once they reach the age of 18. “We’d like to obtain IDs and voting cards like other Kenyans,” he laments.

But area residents view the increased number of parking boys as a menace.

They say they have taken control of some streets and one dares not pass there after 7pm for fear of an attack.

“They have taken control of some back streets in town and spread terror to passers-by,” says an area resident.

When Narc came to power, a number of them joined the NYS and have already graduated in various trades. Then, their number decreased considerably unlike the case is now.

The joy expressed by the residents at the time was short-lived.

Kenyan City Is Gripped by Violence

Kenyan City Is Gripped by Violence

Published: January 6, 2008

The New York Times

Kisumu, on Lake Victoria, is Kenya’s third-largest city.

Dozens of stores have been looted, torched and smashed by rioters and then picked clean by an army of glue-sniffing street children searching for whatever was left. The scorched Ukwala supermarket looks as if a bomb blew up inside it. The gates of Zamana Electronic are mangled.

People here say this is just the beginning.

“We will never surrender!” yelled a man who attended a rally for opposition leaders on Saturday.

“We want guns, guns!” another man added.

While much of Kenya is trying to get back to normal after a week of post-election violence that has claimed more than 300 lives nationwide, Kisumu, Kenya’s third-largest city, is still quivering with anger. Few places have been so thoroughly gutted by the turbulence as here.

With Kenya’s leaders still at an impasse despite the efforts of Jendayi E. Frazer, the American assistant secretary of state for Africa who met with both sides on Saturday, it looks as if the tensions will linger dangerously for some time.

Kisumu is the stronghold of Raila Odinga, the opposition leader who said he had been cheated out of the presidency, and the town’s main street is named after his father, a local hero.

The people here followed the election so closely that they remember the precise hour last weekend, on Saturday, when the vote count suddenly changed, and Mwai Kibaki, Kenya’s president, went from trailing badly to winning with a suspiciously thin margin of victory.

The town exploded, and a furious mob stormed up Oginga Odinga street. The biggest businesses are now in ashes. Fuel, food and cellphone credit are in short supply. And around 2,000 people from Mr. Kibaki’s tribe, the Kikuyu, are camped out at the police station, trying to escape a wave of revenge killings.

“If I stay here, I’ll be lynched,” said Waweru Mburu, a Kikuyu, as he nervously waited outside a supermarket, one of the two open in this town of half a million people. His wife had been waiting for hours, trying to buy milk.

Trucks carrying Kikuyu and evacuees from another tribe, the Kisii, many of whom supported Mr. Kibaki, are jeered at as they pull out of town. Those doing the jeering are mostly Luo, like Mr. Odinga, who live here in great numbers.

“Traitors!” some Luo shouted on Saturday as a truck passed.

People on both sides said the tensions would not ease as long as Kenya’s political leaders refused to even speak to each other, which has been the situation since the election on Dec. 27.

On Saturday, Mr. Kibaki indicated that he was ready to form “a government of national unity.” Mr. Odinga did not reject that outright but said he would not entertain any offers until the two sides sat down in the presence of foreign mediators.

The government initially rebuffed outside help, but seems to have relented slightly and sent a diplomat to Ghana to discuss a role for the African Union, according to Reuters.

Ms. Frazer met separately with Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga and urged them to work together to solve the crisis, which has dented Kenya’s image as one of the most stable countries in Africa and could cause permanent economic damage if peace is not restored soon.

It seems that momentum is growing toward negotiations. “There is slow progress being made,” said Salim Lone, a spokesman for Mr. Odinga.

Kenyans are waiting. Some areas, like the capital, have quieted down considerably. In the Rift Valley, the area most torn by violence, fewer killings have been reported in the past few days, but tens of thousands of people are displaced and in need of food.

In Kisumu, the killings have stopped, for the most part. But the banks are running out of money, few stores are open and the looting continues.

There is some opportunism to all this. The rage that swept through town was selective, striking at electronics shops, cellphone kiosks and shoe stores but leaving the drapery dealer alone.

On Saturday, Monica Awino tiptoed through the shattered interior of a Bata footwear store. Glass was everywhere. She used to work here and now is out of a job at the best time of year. No after-Christmas or back-to-school sales for her.

“I’m angry at everybody,” she said.

Up the street, Bernard Ndede, a high school English teacher, watched street children carefully sift through inches of rubble on the floor of a charred supermarket, as if they were urban archaeologists.

He said he did not approve of the looting, but he understood the anger.

“People woke up so early that day to vote for change,” he said, referring to election day and the millions of people who voted for Mr. Odinga. “They felt robbed.”

For some, the disappointment was lethal. On Saturday, Albert Ojonyo, an insurance agent, went to the city morgue to pick up the body of his brother, Daniel. More than 40 people were killed here in election-related violence. Many bodies have not been identified and wait in a sweltering room under strips of red cloth with their feet poking out.

Mr. Ojonyo said his brother, who was 27, had been shot in the head, most likely by police officers trying to quell the rioters.

“Daniel felt very strongly about these elections,” he said. “Afterward, he was a very bitter boy.”

Ballot mix-ups that threaten to beak up family

Ballot mix-ups that threaten to beak up family

Publication Date: 1/5/2008

While the nation’s attention orbits around the presidential saga and the violence it has spawned, who knows how many sub-plots are spinning away in the dark like so many undiscovered moons?

One waiting for the light of day occurred at Dagoretti’s Mutuini ward, where three family members vied for the same seat. 

Though irrelevant to the national trauma, their struggle for a small slice of power illustrates the many ways an election can be lost – or won – with little  regard for the people’s choice.

The three protagonists, chosen not at all at random from a field of 13 candidates are Mr John Ng’ethe, the area councillor from 1997 to 2002; Mr John Mwaura Moiruri, the incumbent and Mr Ngethe’s son, and Mr Daniel Muiruri Nduati, a grandson of the first and nephew of the second, a reformed street child with no political experience whatsoever. Everyone knows him as Muiruri.

Like many of Dagoretti’s thousands of street children, Muiruri had everything he needed at home as a child. But the lure of a hustler’s freedom drew him away at the age of 14, and he spent the next three years living on the streets.  Where his story departs from the norm is the religious vision that struck him at 17, convincing him to return home and finish his education.

His performance earned him a theology scholarship in Norway, where he completed a diploma in evangelism. On returning at 20, Muiruri started up Emmanuel Boyz Centre on land his father had given him near Dagoretti Market. 

The shelter took in the street boys, weened them off glue and put them through school giving over 300 of them a new life in six years.

In the last few months, he also helped many of them to get the voter’s card.

Muiruri put his evangelical training to good use during the campaigns, and as the elections drew near it appeared as though he stood a good chance of wresting the civic seat from his uncle. 

But poor literacy combined with a botched ballot foiled the best laid plans. 

Enter plot twist No. 1: John Mwaura Moiruri’s name was misspelled on the ballot to read not Moiruri, but Muiruri. 

This was the name by which everyone knew his nephew. Because the ballots listed the candidates’ last name first, and put just that one in bold, it happened to be the first name voters saw on the list. Further down, the real Muiruri was listed as Nduati – his own name, true, but one that few people recognised.

When the incumbent won by a landslide, the young Muiruri came to the natural – but helpless – conclusion that many of the street kids who meant to vote for him had put the magic check mark next to his uncle’s name by mistake. A poor loser’s logic? Perhaps. Sadly, it will remain yet another of the elections’ many unsolved mysteries. Or must it?

Enter the grandfather, Mr John Ngethe: His party symbol was supposed to be a flag, but appeared as the No. 7 instead. Who knows how many votes he lost because of this second error on the ballot? 

Not he – which is why he complained to the ECK about the mistake, together with yet another candidate whose party symbol of a thumb came out as a pot. 

With so many kerfuffles to consider, it looks as though the ECK will grant Mutuini a second round of voting. This time, the councillors will make sure their names and party ballots appear the way they should.

Charity fundraisers endure both heat and cold in mountain climb

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Dave Mann and Dee Hawke at the summit of Ras Dashen. ns

Fundraisers for a Warwick charity endured freezing temperatures and blistering heat in a charity trek in Ethiopia.
Dave Mann and Dee Hawke hiked through the Simien mountains to the 15,000ft summit of the country’s highest peak Ras Dashen in November in aid of Retrak, a charity which helps street children in East Africa.

The mountain is half the height of Everest and the pair, who raised more than £6,500, said the challenge was the toughest thing they had ever done, with lack of oxygen testing every walker’s endurance.

For Mrs Hawke, of Tachbrook Road, it was the second mountain she had ever climbed – the first being a trip up Snowdon in November.

She decided to go only seven weeks before the trek began and raised £5,000 before she left.

The usher, who works at courts in Warwick and Coventry, said: “I wasn’t too sure but it turned out to be the most amazing thing I have done in my life.

“It was 100 degrees during the day with no shade and minus ten during the night. The glass in one person’s watch popped out the conditions were so extreme. But it was amazing how we gelled together as a team.”

Mr Mann, of Charles Street, Warwick is the charity’s fundraising co-ordinator but had never walked at altitude. He said: “The terrain was breathtaking but rugged. None of us had trekked at that altitude before and some suffered from intense headaches. Breathing was difficult, so every step took great effort.”

The rewards for their effort included views across the mountain range and sightings of Gelada baboons as well as ibex and other exotic birds.

And on their return from the trek the party visited Retrak’s project in Addis Abbaba, where street children are given the chance to go to school, be reunited with their families or find homes with a foster family. The team spent time talking to some of the children who are benefiting from the charity’s work and ended the day with a football match against the youngsters.

Mrs Hawke added: “It was fantastic to see how the money raised from our efforts during the trek will be used to help street children in Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya to begin a new life away from the danger and horror of life on the streets.”

The trek was organised by Mrs Hawke’s daughter Karla Hawke. Its 14 members raised more than £60,000.

Karla was really proud of her mother’s achievement both in climbing the mountain, and raising such a large amount of money in less than seven weeks.

She said: “Retrak is really grateful to people like Dave and Dee who took part. Anyone interested in future challenges should visit our website for more information.”