Too good to be true? Slum graffiti warns Kenyans about trafficking risks

Kenya is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children who are trafficked into forced labor and sexual slavery. (AFP)
Updated 19 July 2018

Too good to be true? Slum graffiti warns Kenyans about trafficking risks

  • In Nairobi's sprawling slums, which house two-thirds of the city's 4 million people, trafficked children work in brothels, bars and the drug trade
  • Traffickers just pose as recruiters and lure people into forced prostitution or domestic work with false promises of jobs

NAIROBI: Brutal images of a woman cowering as a man beats her and of a terrified girl in chains sprayed on the walls of Kenya’s Mathare slum bring a hidden crime into view — human trafficking.
The graffiti scenes in the capital’s second largest slum are part of a series of pictures, paintings and poems curated by the charity HAART Kenya to get people talking about modern slavery.
“Trafficking is all around us but people just don’t see it,” said Winnie Mutevu, a project officer with the charity, which supports survivors, many of whom were kept under lock and key and sexually and physically abused.
“A simple picture or graffiti showing one of the many forms of slavery can be a powerful way to catch people’s attention.”
Kenya is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children who are trafficked into forced labor and sexual slavery, according to the US State Department.
Children — mostly adolescent girls — are often trafficked from Kenya’s impoverished villages to towns and cities for domestic labor, sex work, street-vending and begging due to poverty and lack of access to secondary education.
Human trafficking is particularly rife in poverty-stricken slums, said Kissmart Bakra, a musician from Mathare and an anti-trafficking ambassador for HAART Kenya.
“When you’re poor and unemployed, it’s easy to be tempted by someone selling you a dream job,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from a corrugated iron shed in Mathare. “But if the job seems too good to be true, then it probably is.”
In 2015, the charity enlisted the help of painters, street artists and musicians like Bakra to create representations of human trafficking, culminating in an annual exhibition.

FALSE PROMISES
High fertility rates, coupled with rural poverty and land scarcity, drive more than 250,000 Kenyans into cities each year, according to the World Bank, which predicts that the majority of Kenyans will live in urban areas by 2033.
In Nairobi’s sprawling slums, which house two-thirds of the city’s 4 million people, trafficked children work in brothels, bars and the drug trade, sometimes simply in exchange for food, according to charities.
Many slum dwellers who have migrated to Kenya — East Africa’s largest economy — from neighboring Uganda and Tanzania looking for jobs are “ideal prey” for traffickers, Bakra said.
“Their families often don’t know where they are so no one checks in or follows up on them,” he said.
HAART Kenya gives free trainings to slum residents to teach them about the risk of trafficking as many are often “completely unaware of their rights” and are easily duped by recruiters, particularly if they are people that they know and trust.
“Traffickers just pose as recruiters and lure people into forced prostitution or domestic work with false promises of jobs,” Mutevu said.
“Having never heard of trafficking, most victims do not even realize they are being exploited,” she said, adding that the art project had also made the police and government officials more aware of the problem.
Kenya must also better equip law enforcement to “outsmart traffickers,” said Patricia Nduta Gituanja, chief immigration officer at Kenya’s interior ministry.
“Traffickers are getting better at covering up their tracks, for example, by using technology,” she said at a workshop on trafficking run by the German state development agency GIZ and the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Nairobi.
Modern technology, from messaging apps to cryptocurrencies, is fueling the modern-day slave trade by enabling traffickers to ensnare more victims, expand their illicit empires, and outfox law enforcement, experts say.


Pakistan extends military chief’s tenure amid Kashmir row

Updated 51 min 6 sec ago

Pakistan extends military chief’s tenure amid Kashmir row

  • The extension, which had been widely expected, was also confirmed by the military’s spokesman
  • The Pakistani military has long played an outsized role in national life

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan extended its military chief’s tenure Monday, ensuring stability in what is arguably the country’s most powerful position as tensions soar with rival India and Washington is expected to announce a withdrawal deal in Afghanistan.
“General Qamar Javed Bajwa is appointed as chief of army staff for another term of three years,” read a statement signed by Prime Minister Imran Khan and released by his office. “The decision has been taken in view of the regional security environment.”
The extension, which had been widely expected, was also confirmed by the military’s spokesman.
The Pakistani military has long played an outsized role in national life, ruling the country for roughly half its 72-year history and offering the muscular reassurance against nuclear arch-rival India that many Pakistanis see as vital to their identity.
Bajwa was appointed to lead the military in 2016, taking over from the hugely popular General Raheel Sharif, who won the hearts of millions with his bruising campaign against Islamic militants.
Bawja’s extension marks the second time in nearly a decade that the country’s top general had their traditional three-year term extended.
It comes as tensions have skyrocketed with New Delhi after Prime Minister Narendra Modi stripped the disputed Kashmir region of its autonomy earlier this month.
US President Donald Trump urged the nuclear-armed rivals over the weekend to come back to the negotiating table, conveying to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan the importance of “reducing tensions.”
Both India and Pakistan have controlled portions of the former princely state of Kashmir since independence in 1947. The dispute over the Muslim-majority region has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes between them.
Earlier this year they again came close to all-out conflict, after a militant attack in Indian-held Kashmir in February was claimed by a group based in Pakistan, igniting tit-for-tat air strikes.
The Pakistani military is also believed to be playing a vital role in ongoing peace talks between the US and Taliban that aim to secure a withdrawal of American troops in exchange for insurgent promises that Afghanistan will not be used as a safe haven for groups such as Al Qaeda or Islamic State.
Pakistan was the Taliban’s chief sponsor when it took power in neighboring Afghanistan during the 1990s.
Its influence over the group, which has waged an insurgency since it was ousted from power by US-led forces in 2001, is seen as key in facilitating a political settlement with the government of President Ashraf Ghani.
Talat Masood, a military analyst and retired general, said the need for continuity was at the heart of the decision.
“I don’t think Pakistan would have thought of a change in command in these circumstances,” he told AFP.
The understanding between Premier Khan — branded by his opponents as the army’s “blue-eyed boy” — and Bajwa “has been excellent,” he added.