ACCUSES KIHIKA OF WITCH-HUNT

Kinyanjui denies claims Nakuru street children dumped in forest

County boss dismisses Senate report as 'a joke'

In Summary

• Labour committee chairman Johnson Sakaja said the children were dumped in the forest in groups of six.

• Governor Kinyanjui trashed the committee findings, conclusions and recommendations.

Governor Lee Kinyanjui addresses the media at his office on Thursday, April 9, 2020.
Governor Lee Kinyanjui addresses the media at his office on Thursday, April 9, 2020.
Image: LOISE MACHARIA

Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui has dismissed a Senate committee report that indicted his administration for rounding up street children and dumping them in a forest at night.

In a report tabled in the Senate on Wednesday, county officials are accused of bundling 41 children into lorries and dumping them in Chemasusu Forest, Baringo.

The aim, according to Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja who tabled the report, was to clear them from the streets as part of efforts to clean the town so it can be granted city status.

“The submissions from the affected street children reveal that at least 41 children were forcibly removed from the streets by county officials, held in detention and later on the night of February 6, 2019, dumped in Chemasusu Forest,” the report reads.

Sakaja said the children were dumped in groups of six. The incident, according to the Labour and Social Welfare Committee report, left at least five children aged between 10 and 12 years still unaccounted for to date.

The nine-member panel has asked the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to conclude investigations into the incident, as well as alleged bribing of street children, and give recommendations for the prosecution of county officers involved.

Governor Kinyanjui, however, differed with the committee findings, terming its conclusions and recommendations as “at best a joke” that reflects a preconceived political position disguised as a report of the House committee.

“We have received news of a report tabled before the Senate to discuss purported handling of the street children in Nakuru,” he said on Thursday in a statement to newsrooms.

“We uphold the role of the Senate in oversight matters but fault deliberate distortions manufactured to fit a political narrative.”

According to the governor, there is a desperate attempt by his political detractors to deflect attention from the key development agenda that the county has undertaken to a cheap smear campaign. He accused Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika of using her colleagues in the Senate to settle political scores.

“What is the connection between the city status quest and the report?" he asked.

“The Senate must rise beyond the narrow interests of specific members keen on using it as a shield.”

Under the Urban Areas and Cities Amendment Bill, Nakuru town was among tens of urban centres earmarked to be elevated to city status.

Under the new law, the population required for a city has been reduced by half from 500,000 to 250,000 people. The same law also allows a county to declare an urban area a municipality if it has a population of at least 50,000 residents, while for an area to be declared a town, it has to have at least a population of 10,000 residents. A market centre only requires at least 2,000 residents.

Reacting to the report, senators accused Governor Kinyanjui and his administration of inhumanely dumping children in a forest infested with wild animals so the town could be elevated.

The Devolution committee is currently considering the county’s request to approve the conferment of city status.

The outraged lawmakers poured out their anger, saying the action amounted to serious crimes against humanity and vowed to halt the county’s request until the children get justice.

“What has been done by the county government of Nakuru, to say the least, is absurd and the culprits must be brought to book. All children are the same and their rights should be protected,” Vihiga Senator George Khaniri said.

Bungoma's Moses Wetang'ula said the county officials responsible for the inhumane act should be cited for crimes against humanity.

“One cannot help shed a tear...must be criminality held liable for the callous, reckless and inhumane behaviour. These are the kind of people we don’t want in our society,” he said.

Wetang'ula added that the inhumane handling of street children is common and cited Uasin Gishu, which has twice rounded up the children and dumped them hundreds of kilometres away — a leprosy centre in Busia and in 2017, some were dumped in Kitale.

Makueni's Mutula Kilonzo Jnr said, “I cannot imagine something that is worse a violation of the rights of these children than dumping them in a forest and leaving them to die."