Sexual abuse rampant in Taita Taveta mining sites– KNCHR

KNCHR vice chairman George Morara said women bear the blunt of sexual abuse with extreme cases of assault being reported where women were subjected to indecent searches.

“It was noted that mine owners harassed women by searching their private parts in search for stolen gemstones,” Morara said.

Sexual abuse and harassment among women and children are rampant in the Taita Taveta mining sites, a report by KNCHR has revealed.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights said cases of sodomy were also cited during a public inquiry conducted by the commission in 2016.

Further, it was reported that there was a violation of the rights of children to quality education, sound nurturing, sound care and respectful treatment. Witnesses who appeared before the commission said children dropped out of school to work in the mines especially in Kamtonga areas of Mwatate constituency.

Children were also lured by money and sexually abused by mine workers in various social places.

The commission proposes regular and enhanced monitoring of children rights violation and administration of justice to protect children against sexual abuse and harassment.

It further recommends banning of all forms of child labour in the mines and closing social joints that entertain the abuse of children within their premises.

KNCHR vice chairman George Morara said women bear the blunt of sexual abuse with extreme cases of assault being reported where women were subjected to indecent searches.

“It was noted that mine owners harassed women by searching their private parts in search for stolen gemstones,” Morara said.

The public inquiry sessions took place between August and September 2016 in the Taita Taveta mining sites.

The commission visited mining areas including Kamtonga, Mkuki and Alia in Mwatate and Kishushe in Wundanyi.

Other areas included Kasighau in Voi.

Speaking while launching the inquiry report on mining in Taita Taveta and its impact on the enjoyment of human rights, in Mwatate on Wednesday, Morara said the inquiry sought to promote the enjoyment of fundermental freedoms as envisioned in the constitution.

He noted that unresolved land disputes in the county hindered the affected communities from enjoying mining rights.

“Loss of entitlement to land due to irregular practices has given room to some miners operating without a license. Communities in Taita Taveta complained of non-involvement in the land ownership decision,” he said.

The inquiry noted double licensing, with some cases already in court where else; most land owners did not have title deeds.

He added that land ownership is the major catalyst of the continued mining dispute in Taita Taveta County, and therefore deserves critical attention.

He urged political leaders to decisively deal with the landlessness, adding that, “It only requires political good-will at both levels of government.

It must be a top agenda for positively transforming Taita Taveta’s mining sector especially in the affected three sub-counties of Voi, Mwatate and Wundanyi.”

He said the commission shall support Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms where land disputes were identified, further urging the Judiciary to play its critical role to address injustices in mining and land rights in the county.

Mwatate legislator Andrew Mwadime said the government should force mine owner to create favourable working conditions and pay for their employees.

Mr Mwadime said most workers were denied basic rights such as contract letters, leave days, statutory deductions among other necessities.

“Mine workers are mostly subjected to risky and unhygienic working environment and this should also be addressed.” The legislator said.

Edith Kalo, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) Taita Taveta County said open pits and weak support in underground mines risked lives of workers.

According to the KNHCR report, underground mines have claimed many lives and caused injuries to people and animals, with reported cases of collapsing mines, flood water entering the mines while the miners are inside.

Ms Kalo said that soil erosion from mining activities has also claimed farmlands and accelerated siltation of watercourses thereby affecting food production in mining areas.

“There is need to develop and implement appropriate Rehabilitation and Decommissioning Action Plans (RDAP), especially for rehabilitation of degraded areas. We shall cooperate with other agencies to ensure that miners comply with the Environment Management and Coordination Act, 2015 before mining licenses are issued.” She said.
~ The Star

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