In the morning of December 22nd 2013 only two days to Christmas, Agnes Tanga a sex worker operating in Nairobi was called by one of her regular sexual partner corporal Mwisho a disciplined force officer. She left Nairobi and took a bus to the disciplined force camp some 10 kilometers from Nairobi city. They spent some few hours at Mwisho’s house. It is only later in the evening that Tanga and Mwisho left the camp for drinks. They came back to the camp around midnight visibly drunk. Apparently their disagreement started at the disciplined force camp gate as reported by one of the officer who signed them in. “I noted they were very drunk, my colleague Mwisho was threatening the girl in loud voice, saying he could even kill her” noted the officer.
The two then went into Corporal Mwisho house. It was not until 2 AM that screams ranted the air. “I came out of my house to know what was happening after hearing the loud screams” noted Ms Muikali one of Corporal Mwisho’s neighbors. “Oh my God, I saw Mwisho dragging a dead body to a nearby bush with blood all over” stated an astonished Ms Muikali. “I screamed and rushed back to my house very afraid and unaware of what to do next especially given that my husband was at night duty” Ms Muikali said. Fortunately, other neighbours rushed to the scene but unfortunately Mwisho had already left the camp.
Corporal Mwisho was arrested the following day. Colleagues sex workers of Tanga who have also been trained as paralegals by Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme (BHESP) got a wind of the sad events and notified BHESP office. “We moved fast to support professional post mortem for the late Tanga’s body” stated Peninah BHESP Executive Director. “Concerned of possible cover ups since the case was against a police officer, we went ahead to hire a lawyer to seek justice for Tanga’s family” Peninah stated.
Peninah, together with her team, carefully organized a highly publicised demonstration the next day where BHESP demanded action from the disciplined force commandant, Inspector General of Police and Public Service Head.
BHESP is working with the bereaved family, the lawyer and the prosecution in piecing down a water tight case against the police corporal. From the ongoing investigation, it has now emerged that Mwisho has been involved in other sex workers killings in Kenya.
Corporal Mwisho has already appeared twice in court for case mention.
Tanga leaves behind her two children aged eight and six. “This sad death has robbed them of their bread winner and their future is quite uncertain” points a visibly sad Peninah. “We will work on ensuring justice is meted including hiring a lawyer securing and protecting witnesses among others” Peninah observes.
My name is Peninah Mwangi, the Executive Director of Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme (BHESP). I have a Masters of Arts degree in Entrepreneurship and a Bachalor of Arts degree in sociology both from Kenyatta University in Kenya. BHESP is a community led organization serving both sex workers and bar hostesses. I am one of the founding members of BHESP which has been in existence since 1998 and a champion for the rights of bar hostesses in Africa.
As a member of the global network of sex workers (NSWP) I am part of the advisory committee of WHO, where I have been involved in writing guidelines for HIV prevention for sex workers and their clients in low and middle income countries. I also sit on the technical working group for key population at the National Aids Control Council in Kenya. As such I have been involved in the development of various policies, guidelines and curricula for sex workers. I also ensured that bar hostesses and sex workers were included in the National Aids Control strategic plan as a key partner in HIV prevention and care.
I am active in human and sex workers rights advocacy at national, regional and global level, representing sex workers in various UN High level meetings. I have also been involved in movement building including the building and strengthening of both the Kenya Sex Workers Alliance, KESWA, and ASWA (African Sex Workers Alliance)
As the Executive director of Bhesp, one of my major work is to intervene in cases of violence against bar hostesses, In the last two years we have taken fifty three cases, involving violence against barhostessses or sex workers to court, in some of the cases our ladies were accused with loitering with intent to commit prostitution. This is an old colonial law in which the police can never prove, but our girls usually plead guilty to avoid trouble. So far we have won in 96% of these cases. We are now seeing a reduction of violence and arbitrary arrests in the city of Nairbi.