1 May 2019

Kenya: Government Finally Acts to Protect Kenyan Children

Photo: Matt Mazzoncini/Twitter
Matt Mazzoncini with baby Kiano.

For the longest time in Kenya, the media has been awash with stories of abuse of children, whether at home, school and increasingly in charitable institutes, commonly known as homes.

Fresh in the mind of Kenyans is the #PreyingMissionaries documentary on NTV, which detailed the harrowing story of Gregory Dow, a missionary who abused children he purported to care for at a home in Boito, Bomet County.

But in all this, the government has been loudly silent on the many abuse cases against the most vulnerable minors. Apart from knee jerk reactions to the occasional story in the media, with promises of investigations, nothing more has transpired in actively protecting children.

However, since the airing of the #PreyingMissionaries, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, led by George Kinoti, seems determined to fight for the Kenyan children.

Two incidents stand out.

One, on March 25, Kinoti opened the first ever, state-of-the-art anti-human trafficking Child Protection Unit.

At the opening, Kinoti said that he is very angry that some people running children's homes and philanthropists pretend to help children but end up preying on them.

Also present was the British High Commissioner, Nic Hailey who expressed his disgust.

"Nothing is more important than protecting the children of Kenya; it's heart-breaking to see adults from my country and also from other countries traveling to Kenya with an aim of coming to abuse children," he said.

'ABDUCTED'

The other incident is on-going, but a bit complex.

It is a story about an American couple, the DCI, and a three year old boy. The couple accuses DCI of 'abducting' the boy from their Westlands home on the evening of April 5.

Indeed, the DCI tweeted about the 'operation' saying the boy is safe, but according to sections of the media, the tweet was pulled down with the intervention of the American embassy.

In the story, Daisy and her husband Mathew Mazzoncini say they were granted legal guardianship of the child by the Nairobi's Children Court in April 2017 (they have shared the name of the boy, pictures and videos which have been trending online, but which we cannot reveal here).

They say the boy is epileptic and needs urgent specialized medical care abroad. But one of the guardianship clause' is that they cannot leave the jurisdiction of the court, thus they cannot travel abroad with the child, either can they legally adopt him as the Kenyan government froze all inter-country adoptions.

Following this, the Mazzoncini's sought the intervention of the Kenya National Commission for Human Rights. With the recommendation of KNCHR, the couple met with Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani late last year, seeking for an exemption from the moratorium on adoption.

The moratorium was placed by the government in December 2014 following a review of the adoption process by the Technical Assessment of the Legal Provisions and Practices of Guardianship, Foster Care and Adoption of children by the Government of Kenya and UNICEF.

The review showed there were weaknesses in the legal process which was subject to manipulation leading to commercialization of adoptions.

With the moratorium, the government also revoked the licenses of adoption agencies. In 2015, the government appointed an expert committee to implement the objectives of the moratorium.

ABANDONED

In 2017, the Committee, in a report presented to President Uhuru Kenyatta recommended the freeze to be upheld and all the Charitable Children's Institutions (Homes) be closed down.

As a result, the government is not renewing the licenses for the Children Homes, nor licensing new ones.

It in this background that the Mazzoncini's find themselves, Matt, an American, and Daisy, a Brit with an American citizenship through naturalization filed an urgent petition for the police to produce the child in court.

The child is said to have been found abandoned in Kiambu in January 2016, at the farm of a Gathoni Kirima, Daisy's family friend, at her prayer centre.

Gathoni fostered and cared for the child, before Daisy travelled on a tourist Visa to Kenya, got a work permit so she could volunteer at the Mogra Soul Winner Rescue Centre where the boy had been placed.

Then Daisy filed for foster, before her husband also travelled to Kenya on a tourist Visa and they filed for legal guardianship. They were married in 2010, and they have not been blessed with a biological child. In a video doing rounds online, Daisy says they have been battling infertility.

A source at the DCI says that though the tweet was pulled down, they boy is safe with the government.

No matter the court's decision on this developing story, it will remain an unprecedented case.

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