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Media has failed the lost children of Nakuru and their families

Nakuru is rejoicing after senators voted to elevate the flamingo municipality in the Rift Valley to a city. It will be the fourth city in Kenya after Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu. Governor Lee Kinyanjui and the residents of “Naks Vegas” will certainly leave no goat alive or bottle unopened when President Uhuru Kenyatta grants their town the city charter in a date to be announced.

The journey to this moment in Nakuru’s history has been long and tedious. It includes a terrible incident that will forever taint the new city. As part of preparations to attain this status, Nas Vegas kanjo commanded by Gennson Sifuna raided the streets at night on February 6, 2019 and rounded up to 41 homeless children.

Media reports said kanjo loaded them on two pick-up vehicles and drove away for more than four hours into Chemasusu Forest in Baringo County. A Senate report says the children were dropped in small groups at half-a-kilometer to one-kilometer intervals. Sifuna and his kanjo army left the children in the dark forest to be killed and eaten by wild animals.

But the gods of the forest protected them. At dawn, the children managed to regroup. A chief and an MCA helped them to return to Nakuru.

Former Naivasha MP John Mututho took in the children at his rehabilitation centre. But five children from the group are reported missing.

“We think that even others could have lost their lives. People must be held accountable for that. It is not the first time this is happening in Nakuru. It means there are notorious officers in that county and action must be taken against them,” Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja told The Star last week.

He led the Senate committee that investigated the issue. Its report said, “The County Assembly of Nakuru refused to appear before the committee during its fact-finding visit on the matter. The executive also declined to appear before the committee. The governor neither gave any reason for non-attendance nor sent a representative”.

The committee indicted the Nakuru County government for violating the Constitution, the Children Act 2001 and international conventions that Kenya is a signatory to regarding the protection and care of children.

This utterly inhumane incident has received considerable media coverage over the past two years. But the reportage is based entirely on official pronouncements and actions. No independent journalistic investigation has been undertaken. It is a story that still cries out to be told.

Last week, the Labour and Social Welfare Committee of the Senate summoned Governor Kinyanjui and Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti to explain the whereabouts of the missing children.

Where are the children? Will Nakuru celebrate its new city status without those children, while this ugly matter remains unsolved? Why has no one been held responsible for so shockingly endangering the lives of vulnerable children? What kind of society is this?

Why has the media not fully investigated this national shame to expose exactly what happened, who was involved and the obvious cover-up? What are the editorial pontiffs in newsrooms across town waiting for?

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