Revealed: Nakuru street children were rounded up, dumped in forest in quest for city status
The Senate Labour Committee wants the planned elevation of Nakuru to city status halted after it emerged that street children were rounded up last year and dumped at Chemasusu Forest in an incident that left at least five children still unaccounted for to this day.
Most of the street children who were affected are said to have been aged between 10 and 12 years.
The committee also wants the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to conclude an investigation into the incident, as well as alleged bribing of street children and give recommendations for prosecution of county officers involved.
It observed that at least 41 children were forcibly removed from the streets by county officials, held in detention and later on the night of February 6, 2019 dumped in the forest in Baringo County, as part of a strategy to 'clean up' Nakuru in order to fast-track its city status.
“Despite the incident of unlawful detention and dumping of the children being reported to the Central Police Station in Nakuru under occurrence book number 69/7/2/2019 and subsequent follow ups by the DCI officers on the issue, the issue remains inconclusive,” the report released on Wednesday states in part.
The committee held eight sittings on the matter after Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika presented the petition on behalf of five individuals.
Apart from compensating the children, the committee chaired by Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja also wants the National Council for Children’s Services to follow up on the issue and present the committee with a comprehensive report in 30 days.
Independent investigations by the committee established that two county government vehicles registration KBR 801 and KBR 803U, allegedly driven by Joran Mbugua and Paul Musili, were used to transport street children to Chemasusu forest.
“Thirty six of the street children were rescued and brought back to Nakuru, five of the children remain unaccounted for,” the report states.
The nine-member committee stated that the actions of Nakuru County were in violation of international conventions that Kenya is a signatory to regarding the protection and care of children, the Constitution and the Children’s Act, 2001.
The Senate Committee also pointed out that Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui expressed concerns over Senator Kihika’s interests in the matter and requested that she ceases to be part of the committee. He denied that such an incident happened.
But the committee, during a fact-finding mission in Rift Valley town, met with four of the affected children, whose names the Nation cannot reveal because they are minors, who confirmed that they were picked up from different locations by Nakuru County officers. They said they were bundled into a car and taken to the forest before being abandoned there.
Some of the children, they said, were locked up at the County offices near Merica Hotel before being taken away.
During one of the several hearings made by the committee, chairperson of the Street Families Rehabilitation Trust Fund, Linah Jebii Kilimo, noted that several counties have allowed such incidents to occur.
She also indicated that despite the Fund being established in March 2003, it only became operational in 2019, and that apart from existing laws that protect the rights of children in general, there exists no policy framework to govern issues pertaining to children in difficult circumstances, specifically street children and their families.
The chairman of Street Families in Nakuru County, Charles Opiyo, also confirmed that the incident happened and that most of the street children who were affected were aged between 10 and 12 years.
He said such incidents were common, and recalled one that a similar one occurred in 2014 where at least 360 were affected. He alleged that some of them died as a result of the 'clean-up' exercise.
The committee acknowledged that there is very weak deliberate effort by both county and national governments to protect street children.
It also wants the Nakuru County government to demonstrate what plans and efforts it has taken to address the plight of street families before the Senate process of conferring Nakuru City status resumes.