Police in Kenya have arrested three senior medical officers for allegedly running a child-trafficking syndicate following a BBC investigation into the theft and sale of babies.
BBC Africa Eye revealed children were stolen to order from illegal clinics and at a Nairobi public hospital and sold for as little as $400 (£300).
The police chief has ordered an investigation into hospitals, as well as children’s homes in Nairobi. Investigations have revealed that senior medical officers were closely involved with child traffickers, said Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai.
The investigation by BBC Africa Eye uncovered a trade in children stolen from vulnerable mothers living on the streets, as well as the existence of illegal clinics dotted around the capital, Nairobi, where babies are sold for as little as $400. The investigation also revealed alleged corruption at Mama Lucy Kibaki, a public hospital in Nairobi.
Fred Leparan, a clinical social worker at the hospital, is alleged to have facilitated the sale of an abandoned two-week-old baby boy to undercover reporters, later accepting 300,000 shillings ($2,700; £2,000) in cash.
Both Mr Leparan and Mama Lucy Kibaki hospital declined requests to comment on the investigation’s findings. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Kenya’s Labour and Social Protection Minister Simon Chelugui said the culprits would face the “full force of the law”.
Mr Chelugui also acknowledged that improvements to some of Kenya’s child protection services were needed. His colleague in the Interior Ministry Fred Matiang’i thanked the BBC for exposing the “rot” at Mama Lucy hospital. He added that human and drug trafficking were the biggest challenges Kenyan security was dealing with.
There are no reliable statistics on child trafficking in the East African state, but a non-governmental organisation, Missing Child Kenya, said it had been involved in nearly 600 cases in the past three years.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say the BBC exposé caught the government unawares. On the day it was published, state officials including the inspector general of police, the labour and social protection minister and the government spokesman held an emergency meeting.
The next day, three arrests were made and police acknowledged there was a crime ring involving medical officers and child traffickers. Three suspects were immediately hauled to court – all medical officers. The interior minister was impressed by this efficiency and praised the decisive action.
But Kenyans were livid. Did the police have to wait for the BBC investigate for them? How high does the syndicate go? Will they get convictions? These were some of the questions Kenyans asked, in a guarded response to the legal process which has just began, which many hope will ultimately paralyse one of Kenya’s biggest crimes – human trafficking.