Tricks Criminals Use to Kidnap Children in Kenya

  • A photo of the Central Police Station in Nairobi
    Central Police Station in Nairobi
    Daily Nation
  • Following the closure of schools in March 2020, parents have been struggling to come to terms with the fact that their children are at risk of disappearing at any moment.

    Posters and flyers announcing lost children are all over; from social media pages to electricity poles in neighbourhoods.

    According to a 2019 report by the National Crime and Research Centre, Kenya was ranked 17 out of 19 on the list of countries where child kidnappings are rampant.

    Close to 30 cases of missing children are reported every day in Kenya as families battle with thoughts of whether their loved ones are alive or dead.

    Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai speaking at the special sitting held by the National Assembly's Committee on Education on February 26.
    Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai speaking at the special sitting held by the National Assembly's Committee on Education on February 26.

    According to the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, eight million children go missing annually which translates to nearly 22,000 children every day around the world.

    The prevalence said to be fueled by high value that the African society places on children.

    Here are some of the tricks and schemes used by kidnappers who go after children

    Edible gifts

    Children are abducted mainly through an intricate web of deception, for example by perpetrators offering gifts. Young children are especially susceptible to this trick.

    Their untainted innocence, coupled with their love for anything classified as edible makes them easy targets for criminals.

    A child pictured in the streets of Nairobi.
    A child pictured in the streets of Nairobi.

    Witness reports of strangers lurking around neighborhoods with sweets, chocolates and balloons are well documented.

    Parents are constantly advised to keep checking on  the whereabouts of their children even when in the hands of persons entrusted with their care during their absence. 

    Children have been known to disappear on their way to or from school, from playgrounds in their neighbourhoods, on their way to pr from the local shop and even from their homes. 

    They have been known to have been lured by a neighbour, a family acquaintance, a worker for the family and even house helps.

    Kidnappers use the families’ vulnerability and fear to demand money from them with promise of safe return of their children.

    In September 25, the chilling news of abduction and subsequent murder of a nine-year-old girl in Meru, was just another reminder of how Kenyan children are increasingly becoming vulnerable.

    Maribel Kapolon, police said, was tortured before she was killed by her abductors. She was a daughter to Resident Magistrate of Githongo Law Courts, Carolyne Kemei.

    Stolen at Birth

    Babies are not only being snatched off the streets by strangers in passing cars, but also being stolen right after birth by nurses and midwives.

    There have been several cases of mothers narrating how they got to hold their newborn babies for a few hours, only to be told that the infant 'passed away'.

    On December 1, 2019, detectives nabbed a middle-aged woman linked to the theft of newborn babies at Pumwani Maternity Hospital. 

    The woman was arrested while attempting to steal newborn babies. Officers who searched her car found the body of a baby wrapped in a sack hidden in the boot.

    Such individuals are usually involved in the business of selling babies to desperate families.

    Kenyans pictured during a protest.
    Kenyans pictured during a protest.

    Falsified neglect cases

    This usually involves a well oiled syndicate that carries out kidnappings with the intention to sell the babies.

    In match 2019, detectives retrieved a boy from a wealthy family in Nairobi’s upmarket Kilimani neighbourhood and returned him to his family in Nanyuki. 

    The mother recalled how women accompanied by police officers stormed her house in Kibera, Nairobi shortly after she returned from the shop, accusing her of leaving her son unattended.

    Friendly strangers

    In May 2020, a mother grabbed the national headlines after she revealed that a woman she had met on a bus stole her baby.

    The child's mother, Sheila Nyaboke, said the woman befriended her at the washrooms before taking off with the child.

    "This woman appeared so friendly that I entrusted her with my child, we even answered the call of nature together as she held on to my child. But when I went to buy juice for him, the woman disappeared," Nyaboke narrated.

    Following the incident, the police advised parents to be wary of strangers while travelling with their children.

    Notably, the majority of the cases posted on Missing Child Kenya (MCK) website in the last quarter of 2019, were all from Eastlands, Nairobi.

    The Children Act is the primary legislation in Kenya concerned with the rights and protection of children. Regarding protection of a child from kidnapping and abduction. 

    The Act in section 13 recognizes the rights of a child to protection from physical and psychological abuse, neglect and any other form of exploitation including sale, trafficking or abduction by any person.

    In case your child goes missing, the following are the recommended steps to take:

    Report to a police station

    Provide the police with information about the child, including: A clear and recent picture, name (including nicknames) of the child, age and gender of child

    Any distinguishing marks such as birthmarks and scars could also prove helpful to the detectives.

    Create awareness in your neighbourhood

    This is so as to allow anyone who may have noticed strange vehicles parked in  the area or a suspicious character lurking around, to provide their input.

    Turn to the internet

    The internet has a number of resources you can use to not only create awareness about the missing child but also find out if the child is featured among the ‘Lost and Found’ children.

    Teach your child life-saving skills including safety measure they can use to navigate their spaces whether at home or school.  

    Ensure that the child knows their name and age, as well as your full names, telephone number and address so that it is easier for them to communicate with you or relevant authorities to help in locating them when they get lost.

    Police officers pictured at a scene of a crime as residents look on.
    Police officers pictured at a scene of a crime as residents look on.
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