15 children defiled, cases settled in kangaroo courts - activists

IMLU Murang'a

Independent Medical Legal Unit (IMLU) Murang'a co-ordinator Hannah Maina is investigating defilement cases in the county.

Photo credit: Mwangi Muiruri I Nation Media Group

A human rights advocacy group has released a damning report accusing some security officers in Mathioya sub-county, Muranga County, of conspiring to deny justice to victims of defilement.

The Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU) said it is pursuing 15 defilement cases involving girls, with the youngest victim aged 10 and the oldest 16. 

“After they were sexually assaulted on various dates, their guardians, some officers and suspects came together to negotiate on material settlement outside court," said IMLU county coordinator Hannah Maina.

The abuse happened in the past two years and IMLU is “trying to revive the cases and have them reopened for prosecution".

The reported cases, she said, are only a fraction of those perpetrated against girls because "many more go unreported or are settled silently in kangaroo courts".

The cases have "left many traumatised, including some teachers who are heavily involved in helping IMLU pursue justice for the girls".

She said some security officers, village elders, family members and suspects are involved in covering up the crimes.

Some family members, including mothers, argue that what has happened cannot be changed and pursue reconciliation to avoid court drama.

Other family members are trapped by poverty, Ms Maina added, and security officers tell them that court cases “are shameful, costly and with no guarantee of justice and they should accept compensation and move on".

After a poor parent is enticed with money and forgives the suspect, IMLU said, police officers, with the blessings of rogue officers in the children’s and gender services department, draw up a bill and send it to the suspect.

"Most of the victims are from poor families ... The suspects are from well-to-do backgrounds. The axis of evil draws up a bill and the victim ends up being given a maximum of Sh5,000 as the initiators of the deal get the lion’s share of the settlement bill," Ms Maina said.

She said she is collaborating with the county commissioner, county government, media and volunteers in churches and schools to fight this trend.

"A society that treats atrocities against its children as a form of business cannot be said to be sane. A government officer who can sit down to negotiate with defilement suspects is no different from those suspects," she said.

County Commissioner Karuku Ngumo called the allegations "grave”, saying they must be addressed immediately.

He said he had requested IMLU to attend a meeting that he will chair and draw up an action plan for all the cited cases to be investigated.

"When I got the report, I could not believe that we were talking about Murang'a … It is very concerning and if it ends up being ascertained to be true, then all those who have been engaging in such out-of-court settlements will be in big trouble," he said.

Police officers, he said, are warned that "all cases of defilement must be investigated and prosecuted in a court of law” and cannot be resolved under alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

He added that his office operates an open-door policy and welcomes groups fighting all forms of injustices against children.

"Any organisation with an input to protect our children is welcome into my office. The government is there to help all of you. If these cases had been brought to the attention of this office, we would be talking of 15 serious court cases against the suspects," he said.

This comes as Murang'a South police were on Thursday directed to investigate a family suspected of using a mentally disabled member in a rape-and-compensation syndicate.

The family was reported by Ichagaki Disabled Network coordinator Damaris Muthoni, who said family members had in the past two years received compensation from a suspect who has been raping the woman.

"We are investigating claims that the family has been demanding goats and money from rapists targeting its member," she said. 

"A case in point is where in one incident it demanded a goat, a crate of soda, 100 litres of traditional brew and Sh2,000 from one suspect."

She claimed the suspect most recently raped the woman on January 11 at around 6.40pm on her way to fetch water from a nearby river.

A police report filed at the Maragua station claimed that the man dragged her into a maize plantation and raped her. He was allegedly caught red-handed by villagers going to the river.

“After the matter was brought to our attention three days later, we refused any form of negotiations and demanded that the matter be reported to the police,” Ms Muthoni said. 

“We felt that the victim’s relatives were using her as an income-generation project where, after she was sexually abused, they would impose fines on suspects.”

Area Deputy County Commissioner Gitonga Murungi said alleged crimes are investigated and those charged will have their date in court.