Vulnerable children along the Kenyan coast will henceforth be protected from sexual predators thanks to a UK-sponsored Anti-human trafficking child protection unit (AHTCPU) opened in Mombasa on Thursday.
Speaking during the opening ceremony at the police headquarters, British High Commissioner to Kenya Jane Marriott said the AHTCPU in Mombasa will deal specifically with the threat of child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) and child trafficking suspected to be taking place on the Kenyan coast.
A 2018 report by the international child protection conference revealed that CSEA cases have been increasing at an alarming rate in Kenya.
The new unit will enable the national police service to respond to suspected cases in remote coastal areas using the three UK-donated 4X4 vehicles and mobile laboratory of its kind in Kenya. The mobile laboratory will allow police to conduct victim interviews and examinations.
High Commissioner Marriot said the AHTCPU units are just the start in the fight against child sexual exploitation and abuse in Kenya.
She said the UK along with the national police service of Kenya and key international agencies such as the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime, Interpol and UNICEF is proud to have provided support, funding and mentoring to tackle the serious problem head on with Kenyan partners.
The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has been working in partnership with Kenyan police in developing an operational child protection unit in Nairobi since 2016.
The Nairobi unit is supporting victims of sexual abuse and exploitation throughout the country. In 2019, the Nairobi unit dealt with 52 cases, made 16 arrests and safeguarded 72 children with 32 of the 72 children rescued being victims of trafficking from neighbouring countries including Uganda, Ethiopia and Tanzania.
Mombasa’s newly launched child protection unit will build on the important work done by the Nairobi unit.
Speaking during the occasion, Director of Criminal Investigations in Kenya George Kinoti said the national police service has boosted the number of police officers tackling child sexual exploitation and abuse and child trafficking from 12 in 2016 to 33 in 2020.
Overseen by Superintendent Mueni Mutisya, the units employ 12 female personnel including two chief inspectors and two inspectors.
Members of the public were urged to call 116-toll free child helpline to report any suspected child abuse, trafficking or suspicious activities involving minors.
By Joseph Kamolo