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How fake child adoption syndicate steals babies from desperate mums

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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.

When the minor, whom the mother could only remember as an infant wrapped in baby shawls, walked into the small room, she broke down tears. She stared at the young boy, probably trying to come to terms with the years of separation that had denied her the excitement of watching him take his first steps.

The Nation is not revealing the identities of the mother and baby for legal and ethical reasons. The boy’s grandfather, who was in the room, excitedly took the boy in his arms as the grandmother burst into song and dance, followed by five resounding ululations.

The grandfather never had the opportunity to meet his grandson and only got reports on how he had been taken into a new home. Last year, he moved to a court in Nkubu seeking orders to be given custody of his daughter’s son.

He got the orders, but the case exposed a disturbing truth about Kenya’s child adoption services; a child theft syndicate that has been using the Judiciary, the police, lawyers, several adoption societies and children’s homes to label stolen children as abandoned and later sell them off.

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.

Babies are not only being snatched off the streets by strangers in passing cars, but also being stolen right after birth by nurses and midwives and passed on to social workers and

registered adoption agencies eager to meet the demands of their clients. In the maternity wards of private and public hospitals, new mothers are often shown dead foetuses while their healthy babies are stolen and sold off.

When the theft scheme does not involve dead bodies, it uses clever paperwork by adoption cartels, who have been taking advantage of the poor by stealing their babies and giving them to rich families for adoption after framing the parents as “careless” with the connivance of social workers, who take away the “neglected” children.

On Saturday morning, the Nation watched as 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.

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.

Since the law gives the adoption agencies a window of only six months to declare a child free for adoption, the cartels make sure that within that window, the children’s parents never trace them. Detectives now believe that thousands of children have been labelled as lost or abandoned when they are not.

A government report also blames police for making little effort to trace the parents of lost and abandoned children, thus giving cartels a free run. “There is no systemised way that parents and relatives of abandoned children are looked for,” notes the report, which assessed the legal process of adoption and found it wanting.

Although a moratorium was put in place in 2014 banning international adoption, the cartels have managed to circumvent the Executive Order and children are still being given out under the guise of foster care orders or guardianship, according to welfare officers.

Under current rules, the Director of Children’s Services and a manager of a charitable children’s institution can ‘legally’ put a child into ‘foster care’ since the law gives the supervision of the placement — to another family — to the manager of the home.

Also, the Children’s Act gives these homes powers to decide if a child in their area is in need of care and protection, and empowers them to take away the child without following the court process.

While children’s homes are supposed to inform the Director of Children Services within seven days that they have taken in a child, the child can only be taken to court “within 3 months”, which is deemed to be far too long.

Detectives investigating the Kenyan syndicate say that some senior officials of the Department of Children’s Services, who are supposed to offer independent reports on a child declared free for adoption, have been working closely with the adoption agencies and that some of them own some of the children’s homes.

A government report had previously warned that the “tight connection between adoption societies and children’s charities could… occasion cases of pre-selection of children for adoption, which is illegal”.

source: Daily Nation

 

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Aisha Jumwa to remain in police custody until Thursday for plea taking

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BY KEVIN KOECH

Malindi Member of Parliament Aisha Jumwa will spend three nights in police custody after a Mombasa court ruled on the issue.

The court ruled that the MP should remain in custody until the day that she will take plea.

“The two accused persons shall be remanded at port police station pending psychiatric examination. Pre-bail assessment shall be undertaken on each of the accused,” Judge Njoki Mwangi ruled.

“Accused to be escorted to Coast General on 21st Oct for psychiatric examination,”she added.

Jumwa has been in the limelight since October 2019.

Police officers linked her and her bodyguard to chaos and a shooting that erupted during campaigns.

The lawmaker allegedly had something to do with the shooting during campaigns for the by election in Ganda Ward, Kilifi County.

Aisha Jumwa and her bodyguard Geoffrey Okuto Otieno will take plea on murder charges.

While giving the ruling, Judge Njoki Mwangi noted that although the outspoken MP and her bodyguard were released o bail pending trial over charges of misappropriation of funds, the amount did not apply to the murder charges.

According to the Judge, The court had released them on different terms. Therefore, the terms did not to the murder charges brought before the court.

Reports indicate that the Malindi MP stormed into a venue where political leaders had a meeting.

On doing so, a scuffle ensued and an ODM agent got shot. Unfortunately, the agent passed on.

A section of ODM leaders had organized the meeting to come up with a strategy to conduct a mini poll.

Asked whether she had anything to do with the shooting, Aisha Jumwa claimed that the ODM party had something to do with the death of one of their agents.

The ruling comes days after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) approved the murder charges against her and her bodyguard.

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Court documents shows shocking amount Kidero used during 2017 Nairobi gubernatorial elections

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BY KEVIN KOECH

Former Nairobi governor Evans Kidero, the 2017 gubernatorial elections will remain in his memory as it was an uphill task.

Evans Kidero fought to retain his seat from Peter Kenneth and Mike Mbuvi Sonko.

Fresh details have emerged that the former Nairobi county boss spent Ksh 418 million during the campaign but ended up losing his seat.

According to an article by the Standard, the lost campaign emanates from a long tax battle with the Kenya Revenue Authority.

A court document filed by Kidero’s lawyers shows that he spent Ksh 37 million on his party the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

At the same time, Ksh 53 million was used to set up his campaign centre.

Kidero’s team spent another Ksh 75 million on media and publicity, Ksh 25 million on the nomination, Sh 47 million on publicity materials, while his agents used Ksh 55 million to reimburse travellers.

Kidero additionally rented an office at the cost of Ksh 7 million that he used to carry out his political activities for 36 months.

The former governor splashed Ksh 20 million to launch his political bid while Ksh 8 million went on research and poll tracking.

Further, the document reveals that Kidero used Ksh 19 million to fuel cars and Ksh 25 million to monitor elections.

An additional Ksh 16 million was for capital expenditure, while Ksh 6 million was for entertainment.

According to the document filed by Kidero, it also gives a list of the guests who attended his fundraiser. Most of them include influential business people in the country.

It’s alleged the former county boss was to spend Ksh 423 million in the campaign, but he ended up spending Ksh 418 million.

After losing to Mike Sonko, Kidero remained with Ksh 4 million as pocket change.

However, on its part, KRA says that despite spending that amount on campaigning, he still needed to pay tax.

The taxman added that Kidero received the funds before campaigns kicked off.

KRA said that the tribunal ignored the fund deposit between 2011 and 2013.

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Education

Duo gives libraries vital facelift

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Public libraries are vital as storehouse of knowledge; they mould character of cities. Yet, most public libraries are in dilapidated conditions and require a facelift.

At the end of 2018, author Wanjiru Koinange and publisher Angela Wacuka, founders of Book Bunk, conducted a research and found out that contrary to popular opinion that Kenyan’s don’t read, 300 people were walking in and out of public libraries every single day to use them. For this reason, three years ago, they set up Book Bunk to give public libraries a new lease of life after decades of neglect.

“Our mission is to restore public libraries, to convert them not just from a physical perspective but also from a social and experiential perspective. In a sense, what are other people doing in their spaces, what

are they getting access to, what are they reading and what kind of services are in public that we can bring to the libraries,” starts Wanjiru.

They have three projects, with Macmillan Memorial Library as the flagship and others in Makadara and Kaloleni in Nairobi. Two years before the renovations, the duo spent time doing a lot of programming work, events and research, and when the funds came, they began physical restoration, starting with Kaloleni.

However, Covid-19 happened and with it came new rules and regulations on how construction work should continue. At that point, the two had already hired 28 people as casual labourers for the project. Luckily, by the time the new regulations were set, they had already done the bulk of renovation and all that was left was just painting and tiling, which could be done by fewer staff members.

“It didn’t feel right for them to stop because they were relying on the cash to survive. We began looking at how they could space out work, even though it would take longer, but it meant that we could still keep them. They were able to do that and currently they have completed the renovation of first branch,” she says Though risky, they used local people to work on the project to make them feel part and parcel of it. Since land grabbing is prevalent in these areas, most locals look at those who walk in with projects suspiciously, thus educating them on the project’s significance was not a walk in the park.

“It wasn’t a one day or week event to convince people of our intention. We had to go there time and again trying to sell the idea to them that public spaces can be beautiful and functional whether they are in Runda or Kaloleni,” says Wanjiru.

The Kaloleni project is now complete and the community is vigilant in safeguarding it and ensuring that there is no vandalism.

Working with the government has been a challenge and a bonus for the pair. A challenge because bureaucracy in these institutions makes things drag than they would if handled by a private entity. Nevertheless, meeting kind people in offices made it easier for them navigate things that could have take a long time to deal with. The second challenge has been financing their project.

Operational funding “Operational funding is our greatest challenge. It’s shocking to me that in this day and age, people still expect to have their

names on the building when they support a project without even catering for salaries of people who do the work. Wacuka and I struggle to find cash to pay our people’s salaries, to give the people committed to the project good life and not have to worry about anything. It breaks my heart all the time because we don’t struggle to find money for events or research, yer for salaries, it is a struggle,” she explains.

The pandemic has made the two think of future libraries, which is leaning towards being more technological.

“We are currently creating a framework on what digital adoption will look like. The Makadara Library is full of university students and teenagers, which will force us go digital because young people in that age bracket are using technology. This means we must have plans for high speed internet, tablets and we must also have a place where people can experiment with coding; that’s the future of libraries. I think libraries as public spaces needs to evolve into more of community centres instead of rooms full of books. This evolution cannot ignore tech or it’s bound to fail,” she adds.

With Macmillan, they are trying to Africanise the library.

Library and culture “When the Macmillan Library was opened in 1931, black people weren’t allowed in. Presently, if you look at the collection, you’ll realise the content was not meant for Kenyans. On the other hand, the library in Kaloleni is such a significant one in our history, but no one talks about. The building became the unofficial parliament before it was even set up,” she says.

The pair has been trying to reconnect libraries with cultures and to have African literature and art represented.

Understanding the youths are idle during this pandemic and that going to libraries has been prohibited due to health risks at the moment, the organisation has also been trying to take the library to the local’s homes.

“We hired people to find out how many children live in every single estate and in Kaloleni, we found out that they were about 190 children. We appealed to our partners and friends for colouring books, toys and novels and walked around giving the kids in their homes,” she recalls So far, Kaloleni was just a pilot project in as far as the book donation drive was concerned. They plan to do this in Makadara as well.

“The future is more libraries and we want to create a template, which can be replicated in as many libraries as possible. We want to create a team in whatever spaces that we can who can carry out the work and have more libraries than bars,” she says in conclusion.

FACTS
• Wanjiru is a writer and has recently released a book, Havoc of Choice.

• Angela Wacuka was the director of Kwani Trust for around eight years and that’s when she met Wanjiru and the two became friends. Wanjiru started assisting Wacuka manage her events and that’s how their work relationship was borne.

• While Wanjiru is good at management and administration, Wacuka is an incredible networker and communicator.

• They have sessions where they ask each other how they are doing. They have also a small staff who check on them and give their expertise instead of doing it all on their own.

BY PD.CO.KE

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