July 23, 2018

Root Causes of Human Trafficking and Slavery in Kenya (The Congregation)

Kenya is one of the countries adversely affected by human trafficking and modern day slavery both within the country (internally) and without (externally). In the recent times Kenya has been on the IOM (International Organization on Migration) and UNGIFT (United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Trafficking) international observation list, as one of the countries that act as a recruitment, harboring and transit hub for human trafficking.

Externally cases of trafficking of young people for domestic servitude and industrial labour are common. Many of our young people seek “greener pastures” outside our borders in the Middle East and Europe. As a nation we have watched with total dismay as trafficked victims narrate horrific stories in the media, especially young girls who end up in the hands of cruel masters and exploiters. Other boys and girls are recruited as insurgents for cross border radical groups like Alshabarb ( Extremist jihadists within Somalia and Kenya used as suicide bombers and armed soldiers ) 
Internally child trafficking is common as vulnerable children and youth are enticed for better lives by relatives and neighbors who work with cartels that recruit them for hotels especially in the cities and coast region of Kenya where they end up being used for Sex tourism. In other instances some children and youth are deceived or abducted from their homes and on their way to school for illegal adoptions, to work as domestic helps, for early marriages, drug trafficking, prostitution, begging and selling merchandise in the streets.

Causes are diverse and include:


In Sub Saharan Africa poverty is a reality that most governments are not adequately able to address as the draw back line between the rich and poor widens and less opportunity for poverty eradication. Poverty especially in the rural arrears causes migration of many young people to urban centers. These urban centers provide opportunity for employment and desperation pushes the youth to accept any openings available which include a job out of the country; these makes them vulnerable and at the mercy of unscrupulous agents, who recruit, harbor and transport them abroad.

1. Unemployment Among the Youth
Kenya receives about 20,000 graduates annually from local universities; this youth labour force is massive and with very few opportunities in the job market, many opt to enroll and apply for online jobs which promise hefty salaries and attractive benefits this increases the possibility of being trafficked. Unemployment in Kenya is high many youth come from poor or marginalized communities and this increases the prevalence of human trafficking.

2. Orphaned Children
Children without parental care or a concerned care giver often suffer from neglect and are vulnerable to exploitation. These children may run away from home due to mistreatment by relatives and find themselves in the streets where exploiters use them for prostitution and sexual exploitation, selling of drugs and begging in exchange for food and a place to sleep. Many are trafficked from one urban center to another or to neighboring countries such as Tanzania and Uganda.

3. Children with Physical or Mental Disabilities
Children with Disabilities are often removed from their homes by people purporting to be sponsors such as the clergy and respected political figures and transported to other urban centers and put up in safe houses that claim to provide special care and meet their medical, educational and vocational needs. Relatives and guardians of these children are often deceived and even given lap some amounts of money to facilitate such transfers of children who are then exploited sexually. Most of these children come from very humble and disadvantaged backgrounds and many parents consider the money given as a means of improving their economic status and may be used to feed and educate the other children in the family.


Unequal distribution of resources such as land, water, educational and medical services especially within marginalized communities in Kenya poses a great threat for many young boys and girls pursuing their education and hoping for a bright future. Some communities especially those in the North Eastern and Eastern part of the country suffer due to the unavailability of goods and services that would help improve their lives and those of their families. Harsh weather conditions that cause drought and floods often results in economic loss because most on the communities in this areas depend of pastoralism which is often wiped out by adverse weather conditions. Government bodies and agencies that are meant to ensure distribution of services to the people often neglect these areas due to their low economic turn over. Many people migrate to other areas of the country and neighboring countries such as Sudan, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda to work and trade. This opens an opportunity for traffickers to recruit and transport and hand over many young people to exploiters. Devolution has however shade some light and improvement is being experienced all over the country.

Inequality between the boy and girl child some communities in Kenya practice outdated cultural practices such as discrimination of the girl child, Female Genital Mutilation, Early marriages. Girls were considered as objects of trade in most African Countries and were often sold to the highest bidder. In modern day Kenya some communities such as Turkana and Kipsigi’s and some Maasai, these practices force girls to run away from home or seek shelter in neighboring towns where agents transport them to other arrears to be employed as house helps and domestic workers with very minimal pay and cruel treatment.


The government of Kenya has been faulted for licensing labour recruiting agents who are considered to be incompetent, untrained and money driven who will do anything to recruit as many young women and men for the international black market. The Counter Trafficking Act of 2010 is seen to create loop holes where traffickers take advantage of the leniency of the law and continue to recruit, transport, transfer and receipt persons with the aim of exploitation.

Legal Issues

Locally the government has admitted to their inability to receive cases of trafficking, investigate, prosecute and deal accordingly with those suspected to be involved in trafficking of persons.
Internationally the complexity of prosecuting trafficking syndicates and bringing justice to victims is based on the consent of victims, lack of collaboration with international organizations handling trafficking issues and destination countries/ governments where victims are exploited and disparities in the laws of countries where the victim came from and the country of destination. The legal framework in place requires a collaborative networking effort by all those fighting human trafficking both national and international bodies. Some of the most common trafficking destinations are the UAE (United Arab Emirates) countries most of which are not ratified under the United Nations and do not observe the Universal Human Rights.

Social/Economic Issues

Some communities don’t value education especially for girls and this leads to parents giving away their children for marriage especially to older men who end up abusing them in all manner of ways. At the same time women in many communities are still viewed as lesser than men and due to mistreatment of forced marriages some of these young people become victims of human traffickers in their search for refuge.

At the same time because of the influx of refugees from the neighboring countries, Kenya cannot afford to give them all dissent lives and as a consequence some of them both children and adults are preys to human traffickers who disguise as aid or NGO workers.

Messages to: Rose Macharia rsm

Back to All News