Good friend gone bad; trapped in Kenya’s Nanyuki

My plan this weekend was to comment on President Barrack Obama’s farewell speech and his incoming successor, Donald Trump under the title; End of an era; beginning of an error.’ But a desperate WhatsApp call changed everything just as I set out to write, Saturday morning.

My plan this weekend was to comment on President Barrack Obama’s farewell speech and his incoming successor, Donald Trump under the title; End of an era; beginning of an error.’ But a desperate WhatsApp call changed everything just as I set out to write, Saturday morning.

Human trafficking is real. And while Rwanda is the safest place on earth for girls and women, life beyond our borders can be extremely dangerous and one’s safety is not guaranteed.

 

Ella (real name withheld) is a petite dark skinned Rwandan girl in her early 20s; she, with her two sisters, used to be my neighbors back in 2011 when I lived in Gikondo; they were a happy bunch of young adults searching life for purpose.

 

Here is Ella’s story, picked up during her desperate call on Saturday morning; she, apparently, has a friend, a Rwandan girl called Monique, allegedly living in Nairobi.

 

“She {Monique} lives here and has always asked me why I couldn’t visit her; she was always telling me how Nairobi is good and that she would give me transport to travel,” Ella told me.

“I finally decided to visit her and I travelled before Christmas. I was all excited. It was my first time to go very far away from home,” she reminisced.

One can only imagine that when Ella boarded the bus from Kigali to Kenya, it was a flight of fancy full of warm imaginations of a rare holiday away from home, with a friend; unfortunately, the reality would soon prove to be uglier than sin itself.

“After I got here, at night, she asked me to go out with her. Once out, she started to casually set me up with men in a bar, telling me, ‘that man there, he likes you.’ ‘Oh, that is good, I would respond.’

“But she would get angry with me, saying I didn’t have to pretend not to understand what she was trying to tell me. I kept saying am tired, as an excuse to be left alone,” she narrated.

‘Nanyuki, prostitution,’ google those words.What you find will leave you totally nonplussed, at most. Started by British settlers in the early days of colonial rule in 1907, Nanyuki is located in Kenya’s Rift Valley, about 200km north of Nairobi.

Nanyuki is home to Kenya Air Force’s main airbase but the British Army also keeps a base at The Nanyuki Show Ground (NSG) from where it conducts annual desert and jungle training exercises on the mountain and in the arid areas to the north.

The military activity, local trade and tourism makes the Nanyuki township the perfect setting for illicit commercial sex with British soldiers looking to young Kenyan women for sexual upkeep; it is sex for money, with foreign soldiers reportedly paying up to £30.

Ella’s friend, Monique lives in Nanyuki and not Nairobi. So when Ella got to Nairobi, haggard from the long bumpy drive from Kigali, little did she know that her journey still had another four-hours before she reached her final destination.

But once in Nanyuki, Monique quickly cut to the chase and oriented Ella through life in that part of East Africa; Ella would soon learn Monique shared a room with several other girls.

“They told me here you have to pay for whatever you’re using including where you’re sleeping.’ I said but I am your visitor and I don’t have money. They told me to stop whining and pick up the life they lived or I was on my own,” she recounted.

One would wonder why someone would lure their friend into sexual slavery; but the problem with this commentary is that it relies on one side of the story, Ella’s; we don’t know Monique’s tale.

“So I started to go out with them (girls) and sleep with the men they would give me; given their experience, they would negotiate the money. But I can’t continue like that. I have never wished for this kind of life,” she cried. For three weeks, she’s been sleeping with men for survival.

There is always a point in time when a young adult sets out to find purpose in life. In searching for hers, Ella, inspired by a friend ended up in Nanyuki, which incidentally lays at the end of a railway line…far from home, broke, and stuck with a good friend gone bad, it could be a dead end for Ella.

When the call came through at around 9am, I had no idea who it was. It had been four years since I last saw or heard from the kid; she was looking for a job, then.

On picking up, you could hear the relief in her voice, perhaps, after trying several contacts in her phonebook, she was relieved to finally establish contact with someone back home; a chance to be helped get back inside Rwanda’s protective boundaries.

“Please help me. You’re my only chance. I want to return home. I am tired.”

We are currently helping to get Ella back home, hopefully, she recovers from the shock and reestablishes herself; but listen-up folks, it’s rough out there; don’t let your sister be the next victim of Ella’s error. Stay home and only travel when absolutely sure of what lies ahead.

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