A worrying spate of cases of missing children and kidnappings in Kenya has left parents, guardians and residents living in fear, even as they call on authorities to take immediate action.
Over the past few months, an upsurge has been recorded in reported cases of missing children, evidenced by increasing online appeals to help find them through platforms such as Missing Child Kenya – a community led portal that works to help share information on missing children and boost search efforts.
During his weekly ‘Ask the IG’ session in which he responds to concerns shared by Kenyans on social media, Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai has been inundated with requests to crack down on those behind child abductions.
The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) has also been flooded with calls to get to the root of the matter, as some claim an active child trafficking ring could be behind the surge.
Children have been targeted in several populous estates in the city and its outskirts including Kasarani, Zimmerman, Syokimau, Kitengela and Mlolongo as well as other towns around the country. The situation has left parents worried and searching for answers, with some even too scared to let their children play in the places they were accustomed to.
In May, an 8-year old girl – Shantel Nzembi – was found dead in Kitengela with her body dumped near a thicket in the Orata area, soon after her parents reported her missing. Police officers who arrived at the scene found the body wrapped in a sack with multiple injuries.
A police statement revealed that her parents had received calls from individuals demanding Ksh300,000 for the child to be returned safely.
In Moi’s Bridge, Uasin Gishu County, 13-year old Linda Cherono was found dead on June 14, with her body mutilated days after she was reported missing. It emerged that in under two years, there have been at least 9 cases of teen and pre-teen girls being either abducted or killed in the same area.
At her burial in Eldama Ravine on Sunday, June 27, her family cried for justice even as leaders and security officials sought to assure residents that they would go after the perpetrators behind the heinous acts.
In Syokimau, Mama Winnie, a mother of three, narrated to Business Today how parents had become more cautious after a school-going child was abducted by kidnappers in May.
“The child was walking to school here in Syokimau, he was lured by someone who offered him a lift but actually they were kidnappers…they took him all the way to Mlolongo and ended up demanding ransom of Ksh50,000 but eventually the child was found safe but stranded in Mlolongo,” she disclosed.
She revealed how, in response, parents had begun searching for transportation to take their children from home to schools within the neighbourhood in a bid to keep them safe.
Mama Winnie further stated that as residents of her court, they had organized themselves to beef up security by building a gate and hiring security guards to keep watch.
“It used to be a safe place but now we are hearing so many stories that we have to take precautions, we are no longer even allowing the children to go playing in different places around the estate so that we can keep an eye on them” she noted.
The dire situation hasn’t gone unnoticed, with more Kenyans worrying for their safety as a result.
“Why are there so many missing people??” a frustrated Gayle shared on Twitter.
“The missing person cases are too many!” wrote Ben.
“The number of missing persons both children and adults should worry us all,” observed Oliver Muriithi.
“Sipendi sasa hii story ya (I don’t like this story of) people missing every week if not everyday. The authorities should do something bana, ama kazi yao ni kushika tu watu hawana mask (or is the work of the authorities just to arrest those without masks)?” posed Marsh.