Controversy rocks crackdown on street children in Nairobi
The mopping up of street families in the city has been marred in confusion with both the police and county government seemingly clueless on what to do with them.
The Nairobi County Government wants the national government to take responsibility of street children above the age of 18 years while those below that age to be put under the custody of the county.
The whereabouts of 40 street children netted during a crackdown on Tuesday by the police remains unknown after the City Hall courts refused to prosecute them and only took 10 children from those arrested.
Speaking to Nation, City Hall Prosecutor Paul Nyamweya said he was aware 50 children had been brought in, but since the police did not record the crime they had committed they were turned away.
Mr Nyamweya said that they should have been instead taken to the children’s court in Milimani and not county courts since they were children.
“I could not charge them by virtue of being street children, they must have committed a crime. I explained to the police that they can only be taken to the children’s court in Milimani,”said Mr Nyamweya.
Mr Nyamweya said that he later learned some had escaped from the lorry they were been ferried in.
However, according to the children department at City Hall 10 out of those brought to the county court on Tuesday were under 18 and have been housed in Bahati Rehabilitation Centre.
Nairobi Sub County Children Officer Mary Maina speaking at City Hall said that the department only deals with children but those above 18 are under Street Families Rehabilitation Funds, a program under the devolution department.
Police in Nairobi have in the past three days arrested nearly 500 street children and taken them to the City Court although the county prosecutor claims that only 50 children were taken there on Tuesday.
The children and a few adults had been placed in different cells at City Hall but under the city inspectorate.
Nairobi County Police Commander Japhet Koome said the children were arraigned in lots as they were arrested, so that they would not be in custody for more than the constitutionally stipulated period.
The crackdown, according to Mr Koome, would continue until the streets are rid off the children.
“Their numbers have been increasing and they have been mugging and harassing people on the streets,” Mr Koome said.
The County Secretary Rober Ayisi said that the crackdown was a collaboration between the city inspectorate and the police but once the children are in custody they do not get assistance from the government.
“The National Government in collaboration with the county help in collecting them from the street but we do not get resources to help in rehabilitating the children,”said Dr Ayisi.
Children officer Ms Maina said that once the crackdown is done they are taken to Joseph Kangethe where they are sorted out those who can be traced their homes and those who are taken in the county rehabilitation centres.
The girls are accommodated at the Kayole rehabilitation, boys in Bahati rehabilitation while the youths are kept in Shauri Moyo.
Ms Maina however said they have capacity issues as the space is small to accommodate the large numbers.
Since 2003 the county has been able to return 1,500 street children to their families.
The Consortium of Street Children estimated last year, that there are over 60,000 street children in Nairobi. Police estimate that a quarter of this number are in the city centre.
The Social Protection Fund allocated to the Orphaned and Vulnerable Children by the Treasury is meant to cater for the welfare of the children.