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Questions raised over fate of street families

By Akello Odenyo and Josphat Thiong'o | Published Thu, February 8th 2018 at 00:00, Updated February 7th 2018 at 22:14 GMT +3
Street children at YWCA Rehabilitation Centre yesterday. The centre denied receiving any new arrivals from the Tuesday night operation. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

On Tuesday, the county government announced a plan to clear street families from the central business district. Governor Mike Sonko even took to social media platforms to announce to his constituents his commitment to delivering the manifesto he presented while seeking votes.

“Operation to flush out street kids from the city's CBD to rehabilitation centre. In line with my campaign manifesto, my administration has started the rehabilitation of street families in order to secure their future,” read part of his Facebook post.

“Tonight, the Nairobi City County Government, Environment Rapid Response Team, is conducting a swoop to get the street kids off the streets. The rescued street children will receive treatment for addictions in our rehabilitation centres as well as get life skills, including enrolling them back in school.”

After an operation to flush out families from the streets, it is unusual to see any roaming the city centre for fear of arrest. However, the morning after the operation, Metropolitan spotted a number of street children in their usual hang-outs.

Along Aga Khan Walk opposite the Co-operative House, seven street children played cards while one man caught up on his sleep in the flowerbed nearby. And a spot check in the city's rehabilitation centres revealed no children from the swoop.

The Bahati, Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) Makadara and Kayole rehabilitation centres all said no one had been taken there.

Night operation

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City Hall Director of Operations Peter Mbaya confirmed to Metropolitan that the operation had begun on Tuesday night and that more than 200 street children had been arrested in the late-night swoop.

Mr Mbaya revealed that the street children aged 18 years and above had been taken to Central, Kamukunji and Makongeni police stations. Males below 18 years were taken to YWCA Makadara while females and infants were taken to the Kayole rehabilitation centre.

"The operation was meant to not only clean the city streets but also rehabilitate the street families. It has been ongoing, only that the impact was previously not felt. It began last November and will continue daily," he stated.

At YWCA Makadara, a social worker told Metropolitan that the last member of the group from the streets had arrived two weeks ago. These sentiments were echoed by one of the street boys undergoing rehabilitation.

As Metropolitan spoke to staff at the centre, a team drove in and informed the social workers that they were from City Hall and had been sent by County Education Executive Janet Muthoni to confirm if nine new street children had been brought. They were given the same response.

Last week

“No child was brought here last week or even this morning,” said a worker who identified himself as Charles.

The officer expressed his frustration over not finding any street children in the Kayole centre. He however declined to talk to Metropolitan, stating protocol hindrances.

Central Police Station OCPD Robinson Thuku admitted having received 42 people arrested from the streets by the county government. He said they had been arraigned in court yesterday morning.

“The county has the mandate to arrest street children and take them for rehabilitation, but I can confirm that 42 people from the streets over the age of 18 years were brought in last night,” said Mr Thuku.

Speaking to Mbaya by phone, the director said the children had been taken to the rehabilitation centres and even though he did not have the exact figures, at least 80 children had been taken to the YWCA centre.

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