11 April 2017

Kenya: Scaling Up Fight Against Human Trafficking and Organised Crimes


Never before has the world witnessed human trafficking and smuggling of migrants in the magnitude it is seeing today.

We continue to witness terrible scenes of migrants being rescued at sea or drowning while while attempting to reach Europe.

In Kenya, media reports highlight the plight of Kenyans seeking to be brought back home from foreign countries.

Statistics indicate that more than 20 million people are trafficked globally, 68 per cent of whom are trapped in forced labour.

Of those in forced labour, 26 per cent are children, while 55 per cent are women and girls.


Trafficking in persons remains the fastest growing crime in the world, resulting in serious breaches of human rights and dignity.

Its victims, women and children, and increasingly men seeking to provide for their families, are the victims of the social-economic dynamism of labour migration.

The escalation of deaths and suffering is a clarion call that more needs to be done by the State and non-state actors.

Countries become vulnerable to human trafficking when there is civil strife. Similarly, structural violence exists where all the dysfunctional socio-economic, financial, educational and cultural systems contribute to human suffering.

Human trafficking is a threat to security, peace and development. Kenya's position as a beacon of development in Africa has made it an attractive destination and as a transit point for human trafficking and other organised crimes.


The country is a transit route and destination due to its stability and infrastructure.

The most popular routes are through the Northern Kenya Corridor (Moyale, Marsabit, Isiolo) and North Eastern. Smuggling of migrants through airports, seaports is also prevalent.

The UN Convention against Organised Crimes (UNTOC) was the first globally binding instrument where there was agreement on the definition of trafficking in persons as a crime.

The main protocols addressing this are the Protocol on Protection of Victims and Respect for Human Rights and the Protocol Against The Smuggling of Migrants.

State parties to the convention and the protocols are required to have strategies, polices and law, the capacity to combat the vices and international cooperation.


Kenya, being a member of the UN and the African Union, has ratified UNTOC, the Ouagadougou Action Plan and Protocols.

It has also enacted domestic laws and built capacity for law enforcement to investigate and prosecute offenders.

In Kenya, human dignity is a right protected in the Constitution while freedom from slavery and servitude is outlined in Article 25. There are several action plans.

The UNODC, which coordinates the implementation of UNTOC and Protocols by State parties; the EU Global Action Plan 2015-2019; and the UN Inter-Agency Coordination.

These are meant to improve the coordination of UN agencies, including Unicef, UNODC, UNHCR, OHCHR, IOM and ILO.


The launch of the African Union Commission Initiative Against Trafficking in 2010 operationalised the Ouagadougou Action Plan to combat trafficking in human beings, especially women and children.

One of the critical gaps in Kenya is the lack of a law criminalising the smuggling of migrants. This has resulted in culprits not being brought to justice.

The Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act, Chapter 61 was enacted in 2010, and came into force in 2012. However, law enforcement and judicial officers were not properly sensitised on the law, especially with regard to the victims.

In conjunction with the Conference of Western Attorneys-General (CWAG), I will host a one-day seminar in Nairobi to deliberate on the fight against human trafficking, smuggling and international organised crimes.

Participants from law enforcement agencies in Kenya and the United States will share knowledge, experiences and challenges in investigating and prosecuting human traffickers and smugglers of migrants.

The forum also aims to improve cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of these heinous crimes and to build a network of practitioners to enhance the fight against the crimes.

The Attorneys-General of Illinois and Washington, Ms Lisa Madigan and Mr Karl Racine, respectively will share their experiences, challenges, and best practice with Kenya.

Prof Muigai is the Attorney-General of Kenya


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