News 2004


US names Kenya in slavery report

Story by KEVIN J KELLEY in New York
Publication Date: 06/16/2004

Kenya has been placed on an international watchlist as a transit point for women and children smuggled from other African countries as sex slaves.

A report by the United States Government says Kenya is "country of origin, destination, and transit point" of people smuggled across borders for sexual exploitation and forced labour.

The annual report on human trafficking worldwide claims that among the victims are Kenyan children from rural areas who are trafficked into urban centres and coastal resorts for involuntary work, including prostitution.

Sex tourism is becoming more common on the Coast, the US alleges.

"Women and children are trafficked from Burundi and Rwanda to coastal areas in Kenya for sexual exploitation in the growing sex tourism industry," the report says. It notes that "the Government recently began a registration programme for coastal guesthouses, in part to deter sex tourism".

Some of the victims from Asian countries are trafficked through Kenya to European destinations for sexual exploitation, the report says. In addition, "Asian nationals, principally Indians, Bangladeshi and Nepalese, are trafficked into Kenya and coerced into bonded labour in the construction and garment industries".

Overall, the United States gives the Kenyan Government a failing grade for efforts to combat the growing slave trade within and across Kenya’s borders.

The State Department report puts Kenya on a "watch list" of countries that could face US sanctions if they do not take more effective action to prevent human trafficking.

"Some trafficking offences could be prosecuted under laws addressing child labour, forced detention for prostitution and the commercial exploitation of children, but no trafficking-related offences have been prosecuted", the report says in its assessment of Kenya. "Kenyan police officials continue to deny that trafficking is a problem."

But in seeming contradiction to these criticisms, the State Department says elsewhere in the same assessment that Kenyan officials are increasingly engaged with the United States to develop anti-trafficking programmes. The report notes that a human trafficking unit was created in the police force last year with US assistance.

Ten countries are designated in the report as most out of compliance with international efforts to prevent human trafficking. African countries included on this list are Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone and Sudan.

The watchlist on which Kenya is placed also includes Tanzania as well as leading US allies such as Japan and Greece.

Some countries have made significant progress in fighting what Secretary of State Colin Powell described as a "kind of evil" that victimises up to 800,000 people a year.

Introducing the report on Monday, Mr Powell was accompanied by Paramount Chief Togbega Hadjor from Ghana, who was praised for fighting child trafficking "like a warrior" in his Lake Volta region.