Kenya: Focus On Africa - Kenya-Housemaid Violence

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Kenyan police are investigating the death of a Kenyan toddler who died after allegedly choking on food while his maid watched television.

The tragic incident in the Rift Valley city of Nakuru is a headline story in today's Daily Nation newspaper.

According to the publication, Baby Jaydon's parents who were both away on the fated day thought he was in safe hands - their housemaid was 23-year-old mother of three.

Joseph Openda is correspondent for the Nation Media Group in Nakuru where he's been covering the tragedy. He told RFI that the couple still can't believe the bad luck that fell on them this Christmas.

"The family was so traumatised considering that this was their first child," says Openda who spoke to the young couple just after they laid their baby to rest.

The Daily Nation correspondent claims that Steve Opar and his wife Wendy Audrey aren't likely to live with the anguish for a long time, because they hired the maid despite knowing very little about her.

Stalled investigations

Joseph Openda says he was informed by the Corporal investigating the case that the lady neither had an identity card nor a cell phone. "She was using the employer's phone which she left in the house before running away.

Bisi King Paul is a former Director of the University of Lagos Radio and now a community radio consultant in the Nigerian economic capital. She claims that because of rising insecurity, struggling parents are forced to rely housemaids. Unfortunately as she points out, due to pressure at work, they don't do the necessary background checks before hiring them ending up confiding their children to people they don't know.

Baby-sitting strangers

The Nigerian grand mum says she is aware of cases where housemaids either gave sedatives to children to make them sleep, or beat them so they can have peace. "It is neighbours who would hear the children crying all the time that would probably report to mothers when they come back from work," regrets Mrs. Bisi-King.

Human trafficking

The Community media consultant says struggling Nigerian parents are now torn between a rock and a hard place, as housemaid often connive with criminals to kidnap children for ransom. "Some do it out of spite", says Bisi- King Paul, in her opinion some times to "revenge wicked deeds by employers who starve them". According to the long-time Lagos resident, "when the housemaid is treated like that, definitely they are going to take it badly".

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