Undercover investigation reveals disabled Tanzanian children trafficked to Kenya

Undercover investigation reveals disabled Tanzanian children trafficked to Kenya

A child beggar who was trafficked from Tanzania with the promise of a better life in Nairobi, Kenya. Image courtesy BBC Africa Eye

A BBC Africa Eye investigation has exposed a secret trafficking network bringing in disabled children from poor rural regions of Tanzania and forcing them into a life of modern-day slavery, begging on the streets of Nairobi.

For almost a year, a team of undercover investigators led by reporter Njeri Mwangi infiltrated the network and exposed how the traffickers prey on the hopes of families in Tanzania, promising them a better life for them and their disabled children. 

Once smuggled into Kenya, the children are forced into begging and denied all contact with their families. The children do not receive a penny of the money they make from begging, and are subjected to physical and psychological abuse by their captors.

The BBC Africa Eye investigation highlights the case of one young victim. Fara was lured from his parents, trafficked to Kenya and forced to beg on the streets of Nairobi at the age of just 14. Unable to escape his traffickers, he has been held captive for almost half of his life. 

Fara told BBC Africa Eye’s reporter; “They (the traffickers) deleted my mum’s number... I would love to go home... I stayed here in Kenya because there was no one to take me home.”

To the traffickers, disabled children from impoverished families represent a lucrative source of income. Fara’s family told BBC Africa Eye that the man who trafficked him, ZengoNestori, promised the family a new house and a share of the money Fara would be earning. But like many other victims of trafficking, neither Fara nor his family have ever received a penny.

BBC Africa Eye was able to show how another trafficker, KamwaMwasangu, operated a network of eight trafficked beggars across three properties in Nairobi and a nearby town.  

No one knows the full scale of the trafficking problem, or how many youngsters have been forced into begging. No authoritative study has ever been done, but experts estimate that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of victims, each representing a life of exploitation and a family torn apart.

Concerned that their victims were in immediate danger, BBC Africa Eye alerted the police to the existence of the network. The authorities raided a several properties, freeing several disabled beggars, including Fara. Most were either put into care or returned to Tanzania. 

BBC Africa Eye presented the allegations to ZengoNestori and KamwaMwasangu who were arrested in the course of the raids. They declined to comment but deny the criminal charges. They remain in custody while their cases continue.


Nairobi Tanzania Citizen Digital BBC Africa Eye beggars

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