Some of the innocent children roaming Nairobi streets ‘hawking sweets’ are part of a drug cartel in the city, City Hall has revealed.
Nairobi Security Compliance Chief Officer Tito Kilonzi and his Education and Social Services Chief Officer Eva Wairiuko, told the Nairobi City County Assembly committees that some criminal gangs have been using these children, some still in school, to peddle drugs and weapons.
The matter was raised by nominated MCA Ann Thumbi, who decried the increase in the number of children begging and hawking items on city streets at night, saying it has become an epidemic that is spiralling out of control.
A joint sitting of Justice and Legal Affairs Committee and that of Children, Early Childhood Education and Vocational Training established that a majority of the street children are school-going children, but are exploited at night to enable them earn a living for their families. This has exposed them to drug dealers who use them to move their drugs without raising suspicion.
“There are those who have been pushed to the streets to seek solace because of poverty, family breakdown and abandonment,” stated Kilonzi and Wairiuko.
The other group is enticed by earnings from hawking sweets, drugs and begging.
The county lacks laws to arrest and prosecute parents and guardians for abuse and neglect. Though measures have been put in place to rescue and rehabilitate the children, the influx remains a challenge.
The county removed 457 children from the streets between January and October this year. The children were placed in Kayole, Shauri Moyo, Joseph Kang’ethe and Makadara rehabilitation centres. Of this, 306 have been placed in education institutions – 120 in primary schools, 65 in secondary schools, two in universities, 32 in vocational institutions and 88 in non-formal institutions.
“Through an approach of care and compassion, we convince them to leave the streets and place them in rescue centres. The other approach is applying the rule of law and forcibly removing them from the streets and placing them in our rehabilitation centres,” the county officers stated.
Through the re-integration efforts, 48 children rescued from the streets have been re-united with their families.