Kidnappings on the rise as economy tanks

When economies are performing poorly and there is an economic downturn, the crime of kidnapping increases in urban areas. However, the crime typically comes to light when a well-known individual, such as Erica Gachoka, the friend of Shanice Agose, and the daughter of media star Ciku Muiruri, goes missing.

On June 4, a Bolt cab driver kidnapped the two and demanded Kes250,000 in exchange for their release. Although a collaborative team of investigators from Kenya’s Crime Research and Intelligence Bureau managed to save the two, many victims are not that fortunate.

A study by the National Crime Research Centre (NCRC) shows the majority of kidnapping victims endure physical abuse, sexual abuse, being killed, mental/psychological abuse, confinement and isolation, poor feeding and being drugged.

As Kenya deals with economic hardships that have made kidnapping for ransom appealing, the country is seeing an increase in kidnappings.

According to data from the World Bank, Kenya’s unemployment rate is currently 5.5 percent as of 2022, which equates to over 2.97 million unemployed people in Kenya. The growing challenge of youth unemployment is highlighted by the fact that more than half of those without jobs in Kenya are between the ages of 20 and 29.

“The most prominent reasons for kidnapping include: unemployment especially among the youth, high incidence of poverty, existence of gangs and militia, retrogressive cultural practices, instability and conflicts in some regions, inefficiency and/or corruption among some members of the security system, political competition and rivalry, marginalization of some areas, proliferation of illegal small arms and light weapons and competition for control of resources,” NCRC says.

Read also: Specter of climate change pushes 55 million to hunger on the Horn of Africa

The study reveals you are likely to get kidnapped by a man below the age of 35, a stranger, and for economic reasons. Kidnapping someone and forcing them to use an ATM to withdraw money is one of the most prevalent sorts of the rising crime.

Kidnappings are largely aimed at those thought to be able to pay a ransom. With 95 percent of NCRC replies suggesting that the victims of kidnappings were primarily members of wealthy families, businesspeople and their families are the second most desired targets at 48 percent.

Government officers (19.6 percent) and tourists (17.2 percent) while farmers were the most unlikely victims of kidnappings (0.3 percent). Kenya is increasingly becoming a hub for transnational kidnapping rings that abduct children for sale outside the country or trade them for sex or as slave labor, despite the fact that the majority of kidnappers are typically Kenyans.

Kenya has been identified as a high-risk country since it is a source, transit place, and destination for people trafficked for purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation by the US Department Trafficking Persons.

This is evident from the never-ending struggles of Kenyans in Asian, Gulf, and Middle Eastern nations who were promised respectable, well-paying positions, but the story shifts once they arrive.

These needy Kenyans who are looking for work frequently apply through agencies. The agents demand a sizable processing and application fee from the candidates and pose as well-paying employment in the Gulf regions.

After brief training the persons are flown out to the expected countries and that’s where the narrative starts to change. For some they’re taken to the initially agreed country while others are taken to nearby or completely different destinations.

Upon arrival, their documents are confiscated and their communications with the outside world are frozen. The persons are then taken to different places of work where they fast realize that’s not what they signed up for, at times it’s demeaning or illegal jobs.

In a recent interview, two human trafficking victims engaged with journalist Waihiga Mwaura and revealed the horrors they went through. The two Catherine and Jane (not their real names), applied for jobs as Customer service agents in Thailand.

They explain that after landing in Thailand, they were ferried out in a van and even at some point crossed a river by boat and ended up in a place that they later came to be told was Laos, they were handed over to other people at the customs in Laos.

There the two ladies were put in a hall with their fellow workers who were Kenyans, Chinese and Laos nationals.

The other Kenyans asked what brought them there, they innocently said “customer service”. The fellow countrymen and women told them there was nothing of the sort and they had been duped just like they were.

There, employees had completely different jobs that involved cybercrime. They were given a computer-equipped workstation and told to make attractive profiles on social media and dating apps like Tinder before defrauding others of their money.

They had been instantly turned into criminals in a foreign nation without proper documentation, at the mercy of their captors, and under threat of execution, organ harvesting, or prostitution.

Although the Kenyans there successfully reached out to HAART Kenya (Awareness Against Human Trafficking) an NGO against human trafficking and the Kenyan ambassador to Thailand many are not so lucky.

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