Kenya and Human Trafficking.

I am sure you are probably sick of watching the news, hearing about migration, refugees, Trump, ISIS and Syria at this stage. It can be hard to escape at times and it can be very draining. But these are real issues, real people and real life. The last time there were more global refugees was just after World War 2 had ended.

This image highlights the world’s top ten host nations for refugees. This article will focus on Kenya as refugees are most vulnerable to modern day slavery or human trafficking which is a major issue in the country. But first it will look at a brief history on the country.

Brief history of Kenya

Kenya is a very interesting country with a very interesting history. The roots of the colonial history of Kenya go back to the Berlin Conference in 1885, when East Africa was first divided into territories of influence by the European powers. The British Government founded the East African Protectorate in 1895 and soon after opened the fertile highlands to white settlers. Even before it was officially declared a British colony in 1920, these settlers were allowed a voice in government, while the Africans and the Asians were banned from direct political participation until 1944. During this period thousands of Indians were brought into Kenya to work on building the Kenya- Uganda Railway Line and subsequently settled there, whilst inviting many of their kith and kin who were mainly traders from India to join them.

In 1942, members of the Kikuyu, Embu, Meru and Kamba tribes took an oath of unity and secrecy to fight for freedom from British rule. The Mau Mau Movement began with that oath and Kenya embarked on its long hard road to National Sovereignty. In 1953, Jomo Kenyatta was charged with directing the Mau Mau and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment.

Kenya achieves independence

In 1957, the first direct elections for Africans to the Legislative Council took place and those elected increased the people’s agitation for Jomo Kenyatta’s release from detention. In 1962 Kenyatta was released to become Kenya’s first Prime Minister, when Kenya finally gained independence on December 12, 1963. The following year, Kenya became a Republic with Kenyatta as its first President. In the same year Kenya joined the British Commonwealth. Not uncommon for African states, Uhuru Kenyatta, Jomo’s son, took up his father’s mantle to become head of state in April 2013, despite facing charges of crimes against humanity over election violence five years earlier.

Some facts on Kenya as of today:
• Population: 42.7 million
• Area: 582,646 sq km (224,961 sq miles)
• Major languages: Swahili, English
• Major religion: Christianity
• Life expectancy: 57 years (men), 59 years (women)

Kenya and its bordering nations are faced with severe security and humanitarian issues. You may remember the 2013 attacks in Nairobi when Somali al-Shabab militants seized the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi killing more than 60 people.


Additional attacks occurred in January of 2016 and 2017 by Al-Shabab. They claim to have killed more than 100 Kenyan soldiers in a dawn raid on a base in southern Somalia and scores more a year later. The reason for these attacks was a result of Kenya having a military base in Somalia.

Furthermore, South Sudan bordering on the North of Kenya has been in a civil war since 2011. Thousands of people have crossed the border and are looking for peace. These conflicts resulted in thousands of people being displaced and vulnerable to forced labour and exploitation. Two of the largest Refugee camps in the world are based in Kenya. Kakuma Refugee Camp, was established in 1992 is located in Northwestern Kenya. It’s currently the world’s largest refugee camp, hosting over 184,000 people. Kakuma is co-managed by Kenya’s Department of Refugee Affairs, and the UNHCR.

The Hagadera Refugee Camp which is part of the Dadaab complex of refugee camps stationed in south-eastern Kenya. It’s currently the second largest worldwide, hosting over 100,000 refugees. Over 95 percent of refugees stationed at this camp are Somalis. But in recent years real issues have developed around modern day slavery or human trafficking. Kenya is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.

As defined by the United Nations:

human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

What is being done?

HAART (Awareness Against Human Trafficking) is a Kenyan nongovernmental organization (NGO) dedicated to ending human trafficking – also known as modern slavery – in Kenya. Their work includes creating awareness against human trafficking in the grassroots communities in Nairobi and its environs, assisting victims of trafficking, prosecuting offenders and working in partnerships with other organizations and networks to end modern slavery. Moreover, HAART is involved in conducting research to better understand trafficking in Kenya.

HAART was founded in 2010 by a passionate group of lawyers, missionaries and humanitarians. These people from multiple nationalities sought to bring peace and awareness to Kenya to end the criminal activities of human traffickers. Since then, HAART has worked to prevent human trafficking through a multi-disciplinary approach. I will be volunteering as a Communications Officer with HAART focusing on media relations, research, grants and report writing and anything else that I can offer. Some of HAART’s partners include the Irish based Misean Cara, Misreor, The U.S State Department, The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Volunteer Mission Movement (VMM).


Kenya is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Although human trafficking is rampant in Kenya, there is an alarming lack of awareness and resistance to the tactics of human traffickers. They prey on the desperation of Kenyans, especially young women and children, by offering lucrative jobs and opportunities. HAART engages in activities geared towards the eradication of trafficking in persons in Kenya.

Kenya has the highest rate of human trafficking in both Central and East Africa. As a source, transit, and destination country, Kenyan urban centres such as Nairobi and Mombasa provide both the supply and demand required to grow the industry. Often victims are trafficked either to or through Kenya from neighbouring countries such as South Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.

Forced labour is the main form of human trafficking in Kenya, with 41.3% of Kenyan children ages 10-14 years of age being exploited for cheap labour within the country. Once taken, these children are put to work in industries such as agriculture, fishing, cattle herding, street vending and begging. Kenyans are also frequently lured to the Middle East and Europe with the promise of well-paid employment. After their arrival, their passports and identification documents are often confiscated and their wages withheld, leaving them at the mercy of their employers.

As determined by the U.S. Department of State, Kenya is currently on the Tier 2 Watch List. Kenya passed a Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act in 2010 but it has been poorly implemented and the Kenyan government has not demonstrated evidence of increased efforts to combat human trafficking. Their efforts remain uncoordinated and lack strong oversight, creating an environment conducive to trafficking. Obviously there is more work that is needed to be done on this issue and it is something I will be working hard at while I am involved with HAART.

Thanks for reading!

If you would like to donate to this cause you can do so at

If anybody wants to learn more you can by emailing me at or visit

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