Kenyan Police Accused of Entrapping & Blackmailing Gay Men
A report from an LGBT Kenya website claims that police are extorting and blackmailing gay, bisexual and closeted married men in Nairobi, the capital and far and away the largest city in Kenya.
Identity Kenya reported that many police officers stationed in Nairobi's Central Business District are extorting money from gay men by threatening arrest and prosecution.
Like several countries in Africa, Kenya has outlawed same-sex activities. Men caught in a homosexual act can face up to 14 years in prison. According to a 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project, 96 percent of Kenya citizens said they do not support homosexuality. In 2010, Kenya's prime minster, Raila Odinga, even ordered that anyone engaged in "[homo]sexual activity" be arrested and prosecuted, EDGE noted.
Last week a contributor for the website called "Nelly" was arrested by "a person who identified himself as a police officer from Central police station." The officer said that Nelly was selling gay porn and then took him to a van where they drove around Nairobi.
"I was at Kenya Cinema and one guy I was waiting for who said he was a client turned out to be a plainclothes officer," Nelly told Identity Kenya. "Before I could run, five others surrounded me. They showed me their IDs, handcuffed me and told me to hide the cuffs inside the bag while it was still strapped on my shoulder. They then took me to a waiting car near Afya Center on Tom Mboya Street and told me they were taking me to Central Police Station."
Nelly also said the officers then asked him for KShs 10,000 ($1,187) and "told me to call my friends to contribute." Nelly only had KShs 2,300 on him, which the authorities allegedly took and then released him.
Nelly said the police told him they knew him from a website he uses to sell his merchandise and from a Facebook page where he advertises his business.
The former legal and human rights officer for the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, Anthony Oluoch, told the website that about 30 percent of the cases the organization receives involves police blackmailing and extorting among married men. He added that most of the blackmailers are straight who pose as gay on social networking and dating sites to find their victims.
"One of the places they often visit is Facebook and dating sites like Gay Kenya, GayRomeo, GayDar and ManJam where people put their profiles for dates, sex or mutual friendship," Oluoch told Identity Kenya.
A Catholic priest who was identified as "Father Jacob" also fell victim to the police's illegal schemes as he arranged to meet a man from a dating site but police allegedly burst into his hotel.
"They took me outside and claimed I was going to be arrested and booked in Central Police Station," he told the website. "I agreed to go since I did not want a scene. They handcuffed me and took me to a waiting car outside Hilton Hotel and drove to Central police station."
The authorities asked him for KShs 850,000 ($10,000) at the police station. They said if he paid up, they would release him without question.
"They knew I was a priest so they knew I was an easy target. They told me to call parishioners and my Bishop to send me the money," he said. When the police found out Jacob did not have that kind of money, they settled for a lesser amount.
A gay man identified as "George," who is HIV-positive, was also a victim who has spoken out against police abuse. "I and my friends were arrested along Tom Mboya and they tried to lock us in for selling drugs and loitering in the street," he said. "But then they changed the story and said it was because we are homosexual."
Blackmailing and extortion against Kenya's LGBT community is a common crime in the country. GALCK issued a warning against the blackmailers and has set up a website to help victims report any incidents of blackmail.
"The stories of blackmail I have reported show that the police and other blackmailers are using the law as an excuse to further violate the rights of LGBT persons," Denis Nizoka, the editor of Identity Kenya and the author of the report, told Gay Star News. "I hope that the police can be reformed to make it more LGBT friendly and enable victims to seek justice."