The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has condemned the increased incidences of child kidnappings and killings in Kenya.
UNICEF country representative Maniza Zaman hit out at the horrific practice that has caused untold misery to victims and their families.
In a statement, Ms Zaman termed the acts inexcusable.
She said the acts were among the worst crimes that could be committed.
“Unicef condemns in the strongest terms possible the kidnapping and killing of children. This is one of the worst crimes imaginable and there can be no excuses for it,” she said.
Ms Zaman also called for increased efforts to protect children in the country from predators.
“As well as holding the perpetrators to account, we need to redouble our efforts to ensure that children are protected wherever they are, whether at home, in school and in public spaces,” said the Unicef country boss.
The UN official asked Kenyans to be on the alert for cases of children being ill-treated or violated, adding that they should not hesitate to report them to authorities.
“We need to ensure the public is vigilant and knows how to recognize and report any kind of violence against children,” Ms Zaman said.
The concerns come in the wake of the recent spate of child kidnappings and killings reported from different parts of the country.
The incidences have sparked concern, fear and outrage among Kenyans.
In the latest incident that has sent shock waves in the country, a team of detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations arrested self-confessed serial killer Evans Juma Wanjala on July 17.
The suspect is connected to rape and murders of at least five children in Uasin Gishu County.
Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga also added his voice to the chorus of condemnation against child kidnappers and killers.
In a press statement, Mr Odinga called on the police and the judiciary to urgently address the recent spate of child abductions and murders.
“I want to call upon the National Police Service to assure Kenyans that it is up to the task of protecting particularly children, girls and women,” he said.
Data from the 2019 Violence Against Children Survey found that 46 percent of female participants aged between 18-24 years had faced at least one type of violent act – physical, sexual or emotional – during childhood.
Similar acts were reported among 56 percent of male participants in the same age group.
The former prime minister lamented the worryingly high number of deaths involving children that were kidnapped from public places.
“Children are being plucked from their playgrounds, picked on the way to or from school and places of worship and from the balconies and doorsteps of their parents’ houses and slaughtered by adults.
He also sounded an alarm on the increased cases of gender-based violence, terming the trend unacceptable.
“Girls and women are being killed in cold blood by supposed lovers, husbands and even parents. This turn of events is completely unacceptable,” Mr Odinga said.
He urged the law enforcement agencies to ensure that child killers and kidnappers do not run amok without action being taken to stop their killing sprees.
“Police must assure Kenyans that an individual will not pluck and kill two, four or five children or girls before the ring is detected and crushed,” said Mr Odinga.
He further urged the Judiciary to assure Kenyans that justice will be administered swiftly and fairly especially in matters where lives have been lost.
Mr Odinga decried the slow pace of court proceedings involving crimes against children, adding that it only magnified the trauma and pain for victims and their loved ones.
“Justice is taking too long to come if it ever does for the victims. The delays only prolong the pain and make beasts bolder.
He urged the two state departments to restore public confidence in the justice system by firmly and decisively dealing with perpetrators of such crimes.
“Now more than ever, this country needs assurance from these two public institutions that are critical to ending the madness,” the ODM leader said.
In response to the stubbornly high rates of violence against children in the country, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection launched a five year National Prevention and Response Plan on Violence Against Children.
The plan was drawn up with the support of Unicef. It includes a public information campaign christened “Spot it, Stop It” which is a public awareness initiative to educate the public on identifying and reporting violence against children.
Under the plan, children and adults are encouraged to speak up about violence, and seek support from a trusted adult, a children’s officer or a police officer.
Concerned Kenyans can also call the toll-free Child Helpline 116 or report cases of violence against children to the police.
Meanwhile, Ms Zaman is urging the country to provide a counselling support framework for victims and their families.
“We need psychosocial support for child victims and their families,” she said.
The Unicef official emphasized on the importance of collective efforts by Kenyans to combat and eliminate the menace.
“It is important to empower communities to look out for the safety and protection of children. We need a ‘whole society’ approach, involving the government, communities, parents and caregivers, teachers, and children themselves. No child should ever go through the traumatic experience of being a victim of violence and abuse,” she said.