What you need to know:
- There is no national database for missing persons in Kenya.
- However, each police station keeps a register of those who have vanished in their jurisdiction.
Once a person goes missing, the family has to report to the nearest police station immediately, says Police spokesman Charles Owino.
This is after the family has confirmed that the person is actually missing by checking with relatives and friends.
There is no national database for missing persons in Kenya. However, each police station keeps a register of those who have vanished in their jurisdiction.
“Nationally, we only have a register of wanted criminals and if you commit a crime today, we won’t automatically label you a criminal. Unless you are on our list of wanted persons,” he explains.
Once a complainant reports a person missing to a police station, efforts to look for them begin immediately, and the police work with the family to try to find any leads.
“We try to trace his phone, looking at the last person he talked to or was with,” says Mr Owino.
However, he notes that investigations are circumstantial, and police only follow hints of the whereabouts of the missing person.
Sometimes missing persons may never be found due to kidnappings, drowning or hit and run accidents, he says and points out that there are many unclaimed bodies in mortuaries.
Mr Owino suggests that technology such as the Huduma number could be used to trace missing persons.
“Huduma number will come in handy. If say we take the fingerprints of children as young as 12 years, that will help us get their data easily and cases of unclaimed bodies will be solved,” he says.
“Missing persons who are dead will be identified easily if that happens, and the families will be notified,” says Mr Owino.
Embakasi East police commander Francis Kamau says when a family is working with the police to find their loved one, their cooperation is key.
“We handle many cases daily, and we follow up on them until we succeed or hit a dead end. However, it is up to the relatives to keep bringing updates so that we know how to progress. We give feedback when they seek it,” he says.
In Kenya, a person is presumed dead if they’ve been missing for seven years. The incident should have been reported at a police station and logged in the station’s occurrence book.
Section 118A of the Evidence Act says: “Where it is proved that a person has not been heard of or seen for seven years by those who might be expected to have heard of him if he was alive, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that he is dead.”
The legal declaration is made by the High Court, despite the absence of direct proof of death; the declaration then prompts the registrar of persons to issue a death certificate to the family.