Dorris, aged only 17 years, recalls how she escaped death when police raided their drugs den in Nyeri town’s Majengo slum.
“We were five of us. A drug peddling deal ended in tragedy when one of my friends was shot dead during the police raid,” she says.
That ordeal marked Dorris’s turning point. She was among children used by dealers to supply drugs – mostly bhang – to clients from one office to another.
Dorris together with her friends did this for five years, and she regrets that it cost her childhood, education, security and anything that comes with being a child.
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She only quit after the final rescue attempt by police and her mother.
We caught up with her at Serene Haven Centre for Teenage Mothers in Kieni where she is currently hosted among other girls. Dorris was admitted into the facility last year after she was rescued from the streets.
She says she was introduced to drugs by her friends when she was 12 years old and the addiction would see her sneak drugs into the school.
Dorris says they worked in groups of about six children. Her team comprised three girls and two boys, but their “masters” preferred to send girls as they were less suspicious.
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“We would be assigned clients by the dealers and instructions were clear on how to behave while delivering bhang. I hid the packets in the bra or wore an extra sweater with pockets,” she explains.
Out of every package delivered she got a Sh100 and if she brought in new clients, she was guaranteed a “good” commission. On a good day she would fetch Sh1,000 from 10 clients.
“Most of my clients were police officers and university students. There were also doctors from Nyeri County Referral Hospital. Most of the customers are in respectable careers and could not go to the dens to get supplies. We agreed on particular meeting points where no one could suspect what was going on,” says Dorris.
“I would even deliver bhang at the police station near the motor vehicle workshop and leave without being noticed.”
By the time she was dropping out of Othaya Girls High School at Form Two, she says she had established a clientele and could not stop the trade as she needed money to buy drugs for her consumption as well.
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“I was in drugs for three years, but my mother never noticed. She only learnt about it when I left home for the streets. She would get people to spy on me and eventually I got arrested. I always escaped from children’s rescue centres to go back to the streets,” Dorris says.
At Serene Haven, she reflects back on the years she wasted but faults the dealers for taking advantage of her naivety, only to get out of the streets pregnant and with a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
“I wish I could get a chance to talk to the young people to warn them against drug abuse. My childhood was destroyed and there are things I may never get back. I have learnt my lesson the hard way,” says Dorris, adding that she plans to go back to school.
She says two of her friends are still in the drug trade.
Another girl from Kiganjo narrates how she also fell in the trap of bhang peddling in Nyeri and later dropped out of school.
The 16-year-old girl – now a mother of a one-month-old baby – says she was stuck in the streets because of the money she earned from peddling bhang. Nyeri Central OCPD Paul Kuria says they are not aware of children peddling drugs in the town.
“We do not have cases of children being used to peddle drugs to certain consumers,” says Kuria, adding that bhang consumption is only rampant in the colleges within Nyeri town.
“We have arrested college students but we are not able to trace where the supplies come from,” he says.
Kuria says the motor vehicle workshop where deliveries were being done was closed after the group that had leased the space to help street children started carrying out illegal dealings.
He says Nyeri and Chaka towns are prone to bhang abuse as a result of illegal bhang transportation from Ethiopia and Northern Kenya.
“Drug trade is secretive because of their irregularity and we cannot rule out any information because we have arrested a businesswoman selling drugs from her shop. Consumers would pretend to be purchasing other goods,” Kuria says.
Nyeri County Director for Children’s Services, John Kung’u, says cases of drug abuse among children are rampant in Nyeri town, mostly in the slums.
“We may not know where the drugs are coming from but they are mostly delivered and packaged in the slums,” says Kung’u.
Police raids have proven unsuccessful to fight sale of drugs in the town as Kung’u terms it as a secret trade that has enticed children to even drop out of school for quick money.
“Most of these perpetrators have ring-fenced themselves in such a way that it’s quite difficult to trace the actual suppliers. They have radicalised the children to conceal information,” says Kung’u.
The director further said some cases are family business and children are unlucky to be the ones sent to make deliveries. Bluevally, Witemere and Kiawara slums are among the spots Kung’u says are notorious in drug peddling.
Faith Wangechi, a psychologist, attributes the use and peddling of drugs by children to poor parenting and poverty.
“Everything boils down to the upbringing. Most of these children end up in such complicated situations because they are looking for love, approval and acceptance from their homes. There is also a bad attitude among parents whose children have strayed away,” says Wangechi.
She says teens who contract STIs struggle with acceptance during counseling sessions, while some turn suicidal.
“They struggle to accept themselves and move on with life. It pains to see a child agonise over mistakes induced by immoral and irresponsible adults,” she says.