24 March 2005

Kenya Cited in Illegal Human Organ Trade

Nairobi — Kenya is now being considered an emerging centre for illegal international trade in human organs and sex slaves in Africa.

During a recent Beijing +10 Conference in New York, and attended by several Kenyan cabinet ministers, a source within the US delegation confided to Horizon that his country was keenly observing Kenya because it is increasingly becoming an origin and a major transit for human trafficking in the region.

"There is a lot of concern in the US Government, and I think the two parties will have to discuss the issue soon," said the source, who preferred anonymity, saying the US is privately talking to countries affected by the trade.

Although he did not say why the US was so interested in the trafficking issue, he indicated that they have established those trafficked are used mainly in the sex and organ trade. The US Government official added that some traffickers who they had apprehended have traced their footprints back to Kenya.

At the moment, it is not easy to estimate how many people are trafficked for organ trade, but the number is believed to run into hundreds. While that for sex proposes is estimated at thousands.

Kenyan women and girls and those from countries in civil strife such as Congo, Sudan, Somali and Burundi, are said to be the major victims of this trade.

It is now feared that if measures are not put in place, Kenya may join the league of some Asian countries where human trafficking has reached mind boggling levels.

Less than a month ago, FIDA-Kenya also raised the red flag about an increase in the trafficking of women and girls for sex business. In their statement to the UN's Commission on the Status of Women, they said Kenya was a country of origin, destination and transit for women trafficked for sex business.

Worried by the revelation, two cabinet ministers at the New York meeting, privately in consultation with the Kenyan mission in the US, promised to push for a law on human trafficking upon their return to the country.

They are understood to have been shocked with the image Kenya was gaining in one of the most dehumanizing and highly organized crimes of the modern world.

Among those who attended the meeting were Ochilo Ayacko, Minister for Gender and Sports, Minister for Water and Irrigation, Martha Karua, and Nobel Peace Laureate Prof Wangari Maathai, assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources.

But in line with UN protocals, delegates were not willing to name names publicly. Even when UNIFEM Executive Director, Noeleen Heyzer, was asked at a press conferences at the UN headquarters in New York, to name some of the countries notorious in human trafficking, she said it was not easy to do so.

But the United States is already pushing, through the UN system for the adoption of strict rules on the issue of trafficking of human beings. These rules, brought in the form of a resolution, are expected to curb the illegal trafficking of women and girls for sex as well as for organs especially kidney, liver, heart, and pancreases, which are in high demand in America, Europe, and even in Africa.

By the end of 2003, for instance, the National Kidney Foundation of the United States estimated that 56, 598 people needed kidney transplants but only a small percentage got them.

In Britain, although over 25,000 people are on dialysis and need kidney transplant, slightly over 2,000 had transplants by early last year.

A kidney in America or Europe is estimated to fetch between $10,000 and $30,000 depending on where it is sold. Prices for the heart or liver, organs that can only be retrieved after killing a person, are much more highly priced.

The World Health Organisation estimates that about 50,000 kidney transplants take place every year worldwide. Of these, 15,000 transplants are from live donors. The remaining fraction is suspected to fall within the brackets of those trafficked.

In an interview with Horizon in New York, some of the Kenyan government officials admitted that the country is a save haven for human traffickers because it lacks laws criminalizing human trafficking for all purposes. Neither does it have anti-trafficking standards in force.

Some of those who also fall prey to these traffickers are people desperately struggling to get to America or Europe through all means. Women and girls from both within Kenya and those from countries experiencing civil-strife are brought into the country where travel documents, either acquired corruptly or forged, are obtained.

Once in the country of destination in America or Europe, their travel documents are confiscated, leaving them at the mercy of the traffickers. Most of the times they are put under anaesthetic and their kidneys are removed without their knowledge. Some are even killed to get their hearts or liver.

In other instances, the traffickers are said to promise their victims huge sums of money if they give-up one of their organs, especially the kidney. They then organise for the recipient to meet the donor, in a hospital based in a country where travel requirements are not strict.

Here the transplant is done. But most of the victims are said to end up taking home a third of what they were promised.

It is also suspected that some of these organs are obtained within Kenya, preserved well so that the tissues do not die, and then flown to countries where they are needed.

But what remains a puzzle for many countries is how to arrest the trafficking. Intelligence services in a number of countries believe unravelling the web of this business in their countries is very difficult because of its clandestine nature and the involvement of senior government officials and security personnel in the business.

The US has already sponsored such a resolution, titled: Eliminating Demand for Trafficked Women and Girls for all Forms of Exploitation. In the resolution, countries are called upon to criminalize trafficking in persons, in all its forms and to condemn and penalize traffickers and their intermediaries, while ensuring protection and assistance to the victims of trafficking. Providers of Internet services, considered as tan avenue for recruiting unsuspecting women and girls, are expected to develop or adhere to certain conducts relating to trafficking. Those who fail to do so have to face the full force of the law.

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