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Human Trafficking Survivor vows never to step out of Kenya again

Reader's Lounge By Kevine Omollo
Elizabeth Akinyi with he mother Petronila Atieno: Photo; Courtesy

Modern slavery and human trafficking remains a thorn in the flesh of Africans who are duped on imaginary jobs, with extraordinary salaries in the Far East countries.

Elizabeth Akinyi escaped the schemes some racketeers her in Egypt for four months, with the aim of selling her for Sh1 million to their Saudi Arabian client.

The 29 year old mother of two boys, was rescued from the hands of her captors and brought back to Kenya on January 29, having nothing to celebrate.

When Akinyi arrived in Juba, South Sudan in April 2015 after the civil war calmed down, she had hopes of securing her waitress job at Panorama Hotel, which she had earlier abandoned as the bloody war ragged, targeting foreigners.

The situation back in Juba was however not palatable yet and Akinyi had to depend on her sister for upkeep as she traversed the war-torn town to look for an alternative source of income.

"I had been working at Panorama Hotel for some time and after the end of the war I went back thinking I would resume work. However the business was not good and many foreign investors had fled South Sudan, so getting a job was not easy," said Akinyi at her Korowe home in Nyando.

It was at this time that Akinyi met a Mr. Mohammed, who introduced himself as an Egyptian who had got wind of her desperation and wanted to offer her solace.

There was a well-paying AU-Pair job in Egypt, and Akinyi would fit the position, having earned a certificate in AU-pair (taking care of the young or old in a family).

"Mohammed told me I would be paid Sh40, 000 per month for taking care of a single woman's home, telling me all the good things I wanted to hear about the job," she said.

The jovial second born in a family of four had her 'luck' of the lifetime as within two months she had acquired visa to Egypt, from South Sudan.

On August 29, at 7.30 am, Akinyi arrived in Cairo in the company of two South Sudanese girls who had also been 'fetched' by Mohammed.

In Cairo, things changed. Mohammed disappeared, leaving them in the hands of three young men, who took one each and directed to different cars, waiting at the airport parking bay, to the Nasir City.

She was taken to the family of a Madam Sahar, whom she learnt was to be her client. But the job was different. She had to do cleaning the house and three cat pets, a job which would take her ten hours a day.

She was never to ask any question, nor complain about anything, as these would land her to her grave, as was with the case of her predecessors.

"I got scared when I heard that several other girls had been mistreated and died, so the lady's last born girl advised me to be submissive if I had to survive, as it was the best I could do, since I had no access to the outside world through any form of communication," she said.

She proceeded; "One day, as one of her boss's daughters had a birthday celebration and invited so many friends to the house. As the party was on, they called me to give more snacks, and when I went to pick the snacks, I accidentally knocked their friend's smartphone which was charging adjacent. They got furious and told me to compensate the owner. My boss took up the cost to pay, saying it would be deducted from my salary, which I had not known my salary."

She however requested to be given the broken phone since she had covered the cost of a new one. It was from this phone that she accessed the world and told her family back in Kenya what was going on, which culminated to a communication with the Kenyan Embassy in Cairo.

According to Akinyi, her hosts were one week away from selling her to Saudi Arabia, when the Kenyan embassy blocked her passport, barring any movement from Egypt as they traced her.

Her little understanding of Arabic enabled her grasp discussions in a phone conversation between her boss and clients.

Akinyi with her two sons in her home in Nyando, Kisumu: Photo; Courtesy

"The clients were probably inquiring my general health, and I heard my boss say she would feed me well for another few months so that I could fetch 'good money'," said Akinyi who has vowed never to blindly follow easy opportunities any more.

"I used to direct them where we were every time, because they used to move me from place to place, and after realizing my passport was blocked, they wanted to ship me through Mediterranean Sea," she added.

Back home, her mother Petronala Atieno was in constant prayers and fasting to have her daughter saved, having heard of stories of Kenyans passing through hard life or even killed in Far East countries.

"I went to Abindu Hills in Kisumu on two occasions, then to Kuoyo in Oyugis as well as several prayer meetings here at home. I count myself lucky and will never allow any of my generations to go look for jobs outside the country however tough situations we face," she said.

"It was through the area MCA Merline Olero and other well –wishers that we moved quickly through the Kenyan Embassy to save this life," she added.

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