Detectives believe they have stumbled upon one of the most complex child theft syndicates in the country
The distraught mother was kept waiting in a room for seven hours last Saturday, her stomach in knots as she waited to be reunited with her son. But those seven hours were nothing to her, because the last time she had seen her son was almost five years ago.
On Saturday morning, an elite squad of detectives retrieved the boy at the beginning of this story from a wealthy family in Nairobi’s upmarket Kilimani neighbourhood and returned him to his family in Nanyuki.
The mother recalled how women accompanied by police officers stormed her house in Kibera, Nairobi shortly after she returned from the shop, accusing her of leaving her son unattended.
She was booked at the Kilimani Police Station and locked in police cells, where she spent the night with her baby.
The following day, police officers took the boy to a children’s home, and that was the last time she saw her child. She was accused of child abandonment and found unsuitable to be a protective mother.
She was taken to court and remanded at the Lang’ata Women Prison for close to nine months.
The child was placed for adoption and given to new parents. When she was finally released, she was dealt another blow; her two-year-old son had been taken away and placed under the custody of foreigners.
Although adoption cannot take place where parents or family members have been located and have agreed to take care of the child, in some instances the Judiciary and government officials have looked the other way and granted such requests, mostly against poor families who cannot afford legal aid.
The cartels also work with particular children’s homes, judges and lawyers to sanitise the trade detectives believe has sucked in government officials who assist the syndicate to commercialise the adoption process.
Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti yesterday acknowledged the existence of the syndicate that is run by people he described as “vicious children merchants”.
“It is a massive syndicate,” he said.
The children are normally stolen when playing outside their homes and taken to particular police stations by “Good Samaritans”.
At the police station, they are registered in the Occurrence Book (OB) as “lost” or “abandoned”. The “Good Samaritans” then collude with the police and the children are placed in particular children’s homes that have links to adoption societies.
That is how, in October 2012, a Juja family lost its twins (now 11 years old). Despite a lengthy social media campaign that has intrigued many, the children have never been found.
The multi-million-shilling child trade industry has been thriving for years and poor households, especially in the slums and villages, have been the target of its scheming directors, who are the face of the ugly underbelly of Kenya’s child adoption business.
Daily Nation, By Grace Gitau