Here’s How an Arrest Can Happen in Kenya

IJM Kenya works with local police to track down those who sexually abuse impoverished children and hold them accountable in court.
IJM Kenya works with local police to track down those who sexually abuse impoverished children and hold them accountable in court.

NAIROBI, KENYA – Verity’s* mother immediately sensed something was wrong. Just home from the market, she found her 7-year-old clutching a small coin, terrified.

Verity bravely shared where she got the money: She said her father raped her that morning and bribed her silence with the coin, and that he threatened to beat her if she spoke out. Even more shocking—she said this was not the first time.

It was any mother’s worst nightmare. She quickly brought Verity to the police and to the hospital, but it would be six long months before the father was arrested.

Delayed by Those Who Should Have Helped

Verity’s father fled the area before the police were able to take action. The investigating officer knew his caseload was too busy to pursue the man, so he referred the case to investigators he trusted at IJM Kenya.

IJM stayed in constant contact with Verity’s mother and worked with local informants to track down the alleged abuser. But when they brought details back to the police, two local officers demanded that Verity’s mother pay them about $23 to carry out the arrest.

Like nearly half of Kenyans, Verity’s mother lives below the poverty line—not only was the demand unjust, but it was utterly impossible.

An IJM investigator tried to reason with the officers, but they refused to see him. IJM continued to push, and finally—after several days of delays—the officers agreed to go to the suspect’s location, but it was too late. Likely tipped off about the arrest, he had fled again and taken all of his belongings with him.

A New Plan Nearly Fails

Still determined, IJM investigators went back to the original investigating officer. This time he sought out a new police officer known for his integrity. Together, IJM and this officer worked with informants to find Verity’s father and plan another arrest operation.

On the night of the planned operation, this officer was called away on another assignment. For five painful hours, Verity’s mother waited at the target location with an informant—worried that at any moment her husband could escape and disappear once again.

The arresting officer finally arrived in the early hours of the morning. He entered the home, and—six months after first discovering the alleged abuse—Verity’s mother at last saw her husband arrested for the crime.

“It was her persistence and determination that enabled her to get justice for her daughter,” says one IJM investigator. “I really admire her courage.”

The Long Road Begins

On April 16, 2014, Verity’s father was officially brought before a judge and charged with assaulting the little girl. IJM Kenya will continue to support Verity and her mother as they wait for the trial against her father to begin. It could take months or years before a judgment is made.

Along the way, IJM social workers will walk with Verity through a trauma-focused therapy program so she can heal and believe for herself that the abuse was not her fault.

Impoverished families like Verity’s can struggle to get local police to act, while others find themselves unfairly targeted—just because they are poor. Learn more about challenges they face in the Kenyan justice system. 

*A pseudonym.

Africa, Kenya, Sexual Violence, Arrest