Staff at the Venezuela embassy in Nairobi have formally filed complaints with the Diplomatic Police Unit over alleged sexual impropriety by ambassador Gerarto da Silva. At least three junior employees working at da Silva's home in Runda have complained over what they termed as sexual harassment. They recorded police statements last month accusing the diplomat of constantly harassing them.
The embassy stands opposite the Diplomatic Police Unit in Gigiri only metres from the main Gigiri Police Station surrounded by a host of other diplomatic foreign missions. Ambassador da Silva repeatedly declined to comment on the complaint booked in police reference number 35 OF 25/04/2012. We have called him several times from last week and although he picked the calls, he said he was "not ready to talk to newspapers" over the subject.
He called the Star on Thursday last week promising to call back. He however did not call back and did not reply to short text messages sent to his cell phone. He has been a counsellor serving as the charge d'affaires of Venezuela in Kenya for the last six years.
The Star learnt on Monday that the envoy had briefly flown out of the country. He left Kenya on Saturday 19 May on a KQ flight from Nairobi to Paris without issuing the normal departure notification to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other diplomatic missions as required in diplomatic protocol. “The claims are true and it might be better if you talked to him personally for a comment although he is nowhere. As we speak he has flown for a while and we know he will not respond. The situation has really embarrassed us,” said a senior member of staff at the embassy but who sought anonymity on Monday.
In their complaints, the staff claim the diplomat had acted indecently towards them on diverse dates and some had been forced to quit their employment after failing to withstand the offending overtures. A watchman from the Securex Company who had been guarding the diplomat's home claimed the ambassador had acted indecently towards him on diverse dates forcing him to quit. The diplomat’s driver confessed in his statement to the police that he too hard fallen prey to the ambassador's overtures.
A long-serving cook said he was surprised to see the diplomat stark naked in the kitchen on the morning of last December 8. The incident took place at about 6 am when the cook arrived to start his day of work at the ambassador’s residence. His driver told police on April 29 this year that the diplomat attempted to grab him sexually last December at the residence but he managed to get away.
Employees at the embassy who sought anonymity said they were unable to substantiate the claims. “It is hard to talk about these issues unless you have been a victim yourself. Those affected have reported the matter and some have quit. We hear of this everyday,” said one of the staff. Although the complaints have formally been lodged with the police, some of the staff interviewed were not sure that action would be taken against the diplomat.
According to some of the staff at the embassy, the diplomat had threatened them whenever they attempted to bring up the matter and boasted that he was friends with senior officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Foreign diplomats are immune to police investigations and it is impossible for local police to summon them in the event of such claims.
Diplomatic immunity was part of 1961 discussions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that sought to give safe passage for diplomats working in foreign countries. The immunity implied that diplomats would not be susceptible to lawsuits and prosecution under the host country's laws. The host country can however expel or push for recalling of a diplomat suspected of wrongdoing. Last year, Nigerian High Commissioner Dr Wigwe was recalled after his wife accused him of constant battering.