By Isabella Maua
‘Kitchen’ and ‘Kangaroo Courts’ have been the greatest impediment to achieving a zero tolerance campaign towards child defilers, rapists and assaulters within Mt.Elgon in Bungoma County.
Speaking with The Times Newspaper, Mt. Elgon Sub County Children’s Officer Alvin Barasa observed that the number of cases reported is very minimal and is never timely.
“It’s saddening that the cases brought to us through the police station or from our office to the police are about a quarter of the real cases on the ground; many families opt to have Kangaroo or Kitchen courts and only report once their terms and conditions are not met, and this way the victim has already undergone untold agony and trauma,” explained Barasa.
According to Barasa, ‘kitchen courts’ basically involve the parents of the perpetrator and those of the victim negotiating on agreeable terms without involving any other person.
“Unlike Kangaroo courts, where at least the extended families are involved in decision-making, the kitchen courts are mushrooming at a very alarming rate since they’re rare to be easily noticed by the community, hence face minimal resistance,” reiterated Barasa.
From January to July 2023, the Children’s Department and Mt. Elgon Sub County Police Station filed 8 defilement cases, 2 cases of child pregnancies, 5 cases of physical abuse or violence, 2 cases of abandoned children and 179 cases of child neglect.
“The cases we have have been legally followed up, and we’ve gone to the courts in search of justice; however, from the intelligence gathered, there are many more cases that haven’t reached us yet because the community is playing a big role in covering up for the perpetrators while compromising the lives and well-being of the victims,” disclosed Barasa.
As much as the community may carry their fair share of blame, research has shown that many cases of early pregnancies crop up from a Romeo and Juliet kind of relationship very early in the children’s lives.
“Looking deeper into this matter in Mt. Elgon, many cases reported or not are between juveniles since many are sexually active in very early stages of their lives. In such cases, they direly need guidance and counselling other than being summoned to court and jailed,” explained the Children’s officer.
In a research by The Times Newspaper team, at least one adolescent aged between 10 and 14 years sought family planning services at Mt. Elgon Sub County Hospital every month.
In 2022, adolescent family planning (10–14 years old) uptake from January to December was as follows: 0,0,0,2,0,1,2,1,2,5,0,2.
For adolescents aged 15–20 years, the uptake from January to December was higher as follows: 156, 177, 221, 190, 167, 159, 131, 200, 149, 199, 149, 197.
In the year 2023, there had been no adolescent family planning sought by adolescents aged 10–14 from January to March.
As for the ones aged 15–20 years, 156 sought the services in January, 182 in February and 118 in March.
Needless to say, most of these adolescent girls, if not all, are pupils and students who, in most cases, have sought these services without their parents or guardians guidance or knowledge, thereby creating another vacuum of communication.
According to Mt. Elgon Sub County Police Commander Robert Makau, the communication gap between children and parents has played a critical role in promoting early pregnancies in the region.
“Parents should be very watchful of their children and monitor every step they take; be patient with them; and avoid applying corporal punishment; instead, embrace negotiation and counselling to bring forth a disciplined generation,” advised Makau.
Most recent cases in June and July have been of an 8-year-old boy assaulted at Kaptama after allegedly being found stealing potatoes at a neighbour’s farm; a mid-20s woman assaulted by her husband and bitten on the lower lips; and a 15-year-old adolescent defiled and impregnated by a Salvation Army pastor at Kamutiong’
At the time of publication, all the perpetrators were at large and the police have confirmed that they’re following up on the matter as per the law.
“As for the case of the Kaptama woman bitten on the lips by the husband, her 1-year-old baby was taken from her by the estranged husband, who’s currently on the run; however, we are working collaboratively with police to bring him to book,” affirmed Barasa.
With Kaptama having many assault and violence cases lately, we were prompted to pay a visit to the Kaptama Police Station, where we found out it has a change of guard.
At least for the past 3 months, there’s been a public outcry even to the national level that something be done, and so far, so good.
However, the station has nothing to smile about yet or even show off for their new guard; the pathetic state of the building and cells is still pronounced, and the officers are still beseeching the government to improve their working state so as to subsequently improve service delivery to the mwananchi.
Though the government has its responsibilities in implementing the set laws, the community, starting with the nuclear family set up, has a lion’s share in ensuring morals are upheld and children protected at all costs.
If everyone takes up their part, no crime will go unjudged nor a perpetrator unpunished; no child will have to live a traumatised life nor carry an unwanted child who would have otherwise been prevented immediately after reporting the incident at a health facility.