Sex pests exploiting child sponsorships for dirty acts

Would you allow a foreigner to take your daughter on a week long holiday without your presence? Or even your boy for that matter?

The lives of these innocent children could be ruined by sex predators masquerading as donors. Nairobi Chronicle photo.

The lives of these innocent children could be ruined by sex predators masquerading as donors. Nairobi Chronicle photo.

Of course, most rational parents would not accept this. Unfortunately, poverty is driving Kenyan parents into turning a blind eye as foreigners sponsoring their children’s education turn the young ones into sex objects.

Investigations by the Nairobi Chronicle have revealed that Kenya is awash with all kinds of characters offering education sponsorship to children from needy families. The foreigners come in the guise of churches, non-governmental organizations, philanthropic groups or simply interested tourists.

Education and household sponsorships by foreigners are highest in Nyanza, Nairobi and Coast provinces. In Nyanza, the huge number of HIV/Aids orphans presents easy prey for sex pests. In the slums of Nairobi and the fishing villages of the Coast, poverty is the main culprit behind the sad tales.

It is believed that there are hundreds of thousands of children in Nyanza province who have lost their parents and close relatives to HIV/Aids. The situation is so bad that in some villages, only elderly people and children are left as all the able bodied persons lie in graves. Some of the children have undergone double tragedies after the relatives who adopted them also died of AIDS.

With nowhere else to go, these children turn to the church for assistance. Mainstream churches, such as the Catholic Church, Anglican and Seventh Day usually have established systems for assisting children with education. It is the smaller Christian denominations that present an opening for child exploitation because these churches are completely dependent on foreign funding.

The pastor will write an appeal for funds to assist orphans with food, clothes and education. Not surprisingly, the appeal is heeded and the money begins to flow. The church finds accommodation for the children either by placing them in local homes or by putting up structures with the money. With time, the ‘donors’ express their intention to visit Kenya and see how their money is being utilized. This is where problems begin.

Foreign sponsors come mostly from Europe and North America. A few of the sponsors may be wealthy individuals from other African countries, including Nigeria and South Africa. Affluent Kenyans have not been left behind either.

The Nairobi Chronicle is not in any way implying that all sponsors are paedophiles. We are just drawing attention to the fact that people are getting access to children without any vetting taking place.

Once the foreigners come to Kenya they have unfettered access to the children. They take them along for trips without a relative or church official accompanying the child for supervisory purposes.

Its not only orphans who are being exploited. The children of poor parents are suffering as well, as the Nairobi Chronicle found out. Once the sponsorship deal is sealed, its only a matter of time before parents are convinced to let their children accompany the sponsors on trips. There’s really no telling what happens during those trips, some of which can last the entire duration of a school holiday.

It is not as though the parents don’t know whatever is going on. Only the very naïve can assume that a middle aged tourist can drive a 14 year old girl 400 kilometres to Nairobi and back, without anything strange happening. Parents are keeping quiet for fear of losing the sponsorship, and hence losing the opportunity to educate their children. The fact that some of these sponsors finance household expenses makes matters very tricky for desperate parents.

A special case from South Nyanza has been brought to the attention of the Nairobi Chronicle: A sponsor from the United States has financed the education of a certain girl from primary school level, through high school and upto University. The sponsor visits every year with gifts for the family. He has visited the girl at every school she has attended and takes her on holiday whenever he comes to Kenya.

With the girl now in University, the American sponsor is visiting her at campus hostels in a powerful 4×4 vehicle. He takes her out, sometimes returning at late hours. More perplexing is the willingness of the young lady to leave classes whenever her benefactor calls for a meeting in town. It is said the woman had an African fiancée but he pulled out because of the unusual circumstances.

In Nairobi, some parents have become so good at finding sponsors that they have a different sponsor for each of their children. However, the sponsorship comes at a price. Sooner or later, the donor will offer to take the children out on holiday after giving the parents an irresistible cash hand out. In some cases, the sponsors take the children back to their countries for, “quality education.”

At the Kenyan Coast, entrenched poverty is pushing parents into seeking foreigners to sponsor their children. At the coast, getting foreign sponsorship is not difficult due to the tourism industry. Modern tourists want to do much more than watching animals, instead, they want to make a difference in the life of an African family. Amidst this noble cause, sex pests have seen an opportunity to satisfy their evil desires.

Like in the case of Nyanza and Nairobi provinces, the sex predator will develop a relationship with the family by providing educational assistance for the children and cash handouts for the unemployed parents. Sooner or later, the sponsor will ask to take the child out for holiday or for further education overseas. Usually, the parents will be too poor to refuse even if they suspect that something is about to happen to their precious child. The family simply cannot afford to bite the hand that feeds them.

An exceedingly moving case was reported in a Kenyan newspaper a couple of years ago. A local woman was found sitting in the lobby of a tourist class hotel. Of course, villagers are not normally found enjoying such luxuries and the hotel staff began inquiries concerning her presence. What they discovered shocked them beyond measure.

The woman had brought her small daughter to visit a foreign sponsor in his hotel room. The woman was waiting for her daughter to finish her “business.” She knew exactly what was going on and she was facilitating the vice.

The Kenyan government seems totally unaware of the ongoing destruction of our children’s morality. Foreign sponsors have learnt to cultivate cordial working relationships with local political and church leaders who even find needy families for them. Many small churches are financed by the same individuals targeting the children of the poor.

The result is the development of a traumatized generation of young people who have been physically, psychologically and emotionally ravaged by involvement in disgusting sex practices. At the Kenya Coast, for example, it is a well known fact that children from poor rural homesteads are getting lured into child pornography. Police officers have captured video tapes and digital photos to prove that the situation is really bad.

These children will never know what a normal, loving sexual relationship is all about. Their introduction to sex was abusive and when they grow up, they will become abusers. Its hardly surprising that cases of rape, incest, group orgies and sex-with-animals are increasing in the country.

The sad bit is that some Kenyan parents are willing to sacrifice their children’s bodies for money. It makes one wonder why they bother having children in the first place if they are not willing – or able – to raise them.

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Raila, circumcision and the Luo

Debate is raging among the Luo community as thousands of its men rush to get circumcised after encouragement by Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Traditionally, Luo initiation rites do not include the circumcision of males or females. Instead, the tribe has alternative rituals that have been handed down for hundreds of years. These include the removal of six lower teeth.

Prime Minister Raila, who is a Luo and idolized as the community’s kingpin, has come into conflict with tribal elders over his insistence that Luo men be circumcised. Luo elders view circumcision as an erosion of long-held cultural values.

Controversy is growing in Nyanza amidst rumours that Raila is changing Luo culture in order to increase his community’s appeal in the next presidential election. Majority of Kenya’s tribes circumcise males as part of initiation into adulthood.

While campaigning for the presidency in 2007, Raila was attacked by President Mwai Kibaki’s campaign strategists as unworthy of leadership because, being a Luo, he was thought to be uncircumcised. President Kibaki comes from the Kikuyu tribe where circumcision is a very important rite of passage. Without it, a man is relegated to low societal status.

Kibaki’s assault against Raila’s perceived circumcision status drew Luo outrage against the Kikuyu and helped mobilize the community’s votes behind their man. Now, with Raila working as Prime Minister under Kibaki, Luo intellectuals are perplexed at his seeming attempts to repackage the community as a circumcised people.

During political and ethnic clashes following the disputed 2007 elections, Luo men were forcibly circumcised by Kikuyu youths. Many bled to death on the streets of Nairobi’s squalid slums.

Luo elders feel that Raila wants to make the Luo acceptable to the Kikuyu, something that is viewed with intense outrage. The fact that the circumcision drive is spear-headed by the government makes it worse because President Kibaki is a Kikuyu. Luo intellectuals view the circumcision drive as cultural imperialism imposed to undermine Luo values.

While Raila’s ODM party capitalized on anti-Kikuyu sentiments to win votes, Raila’s first born son is engaged to marry a Kikuyu woman. The political grapevine is rife with assertions that Raila’s call for Luo to embrace circumcision is for the benefit of his future in-laws.

The circumcision drive has been marketed as a HIV/Aids prevention strategy in a region with among the highest rates of HIV/Aids infection in Kenya. According to medical researchers, circumcised men have a significantly lower risk of getting HIV/Aids compared to the uncircumcised. It is believed that removal of the foreskin toughens the covering of male genital organs and thus reduces the chances of getting HIV.

Luo leaders have dismissed the research and have cited credible reports showing that circumcision has little effect on HIV/Aids transmission. The protests have not stopped the Kenyan government from promoting circumcision among the Luo. The Turkana tribe in Kenya’s arid north-west does not practice circumcision but they have not been targeted by the government’s latest health campaign.

Meanwhile HIV/Aids experts in Nyanza province say that the rush for male circumcision may actually worsen rather than decrease infection rates. “Circumcision will create a false sense of security and people will neglect other prevention measures such as condoms and faithfulness to one partner,” warns an official. The enthusiastic queues of men waiting to be circumcised at government hospitals and private clinics across Nyanza may lend credibility to such fears.

Supporters of the Prime Minister fear that a cultural backlash could emerge among the Luo and that Raila needs to move cautiously over the circumcision issue. Raila’s leadership of the Luo is virtually unchallenged but quiet murmurings among Luo elders could just be his undoing.

Having come so close to realizing his dream for national leadership, the loss of his core support is a possibility that Raila is best advised to avoid.

Malaria gene ‘increases HIV risk’

A gene which apparently evolved to protect people from malaria increases their vulnerability to HIV infection by 40%, say US and UK scientists.

People of African descent have a variation of the “DARC” gene which may interfere with their ability to fight HIV in its early stages. The Cell Host and Microbe study says the gene accounts for millions of extra HIV cases in sub-Saharan Africa. People with the gene appear to live longer with HIV than others.

While the differences in HIV prevalence in different parts of the world can be partly explained by different social conditions and sexual behaviour, scientists have long suspected that there may be genetic reasons why the virus is rife in certain communities.

Read more of this BBC report >>

American executive charged with child sex

An American executive charged with child sex was yesterday granted bail by a Nairobi court.

According to the Daily Nation, Mr John Cardon Wagner was accused of defiling two girls, one aged 13 years old and the other 14 on June 5 and 7. Mr Wagner is the owner of the popular Java chain of coffee houses.

While granting bail, the judge ordered that Mr Wagner deposit his passport with the police, to prevent him from fleeing the country.

Cases of child sex abuse have reached alarming levels in Kenya, fuelled by an erosion in traditional values, the growth of urban slums and poverty. Rich locals and foreigners often take advantage of the circumstances of poor families to prey on their children in exchange for money.