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Munyakho case a wake-up call

Wednesday, May 15th, 2024 06:00 | By
Dorothy Musopole, mother of Stephen Munyakho who was jailed in Saudi Arabia in 2011, flanked by members of the Bring Back Stevo Campaign committee, Joseph Odindo (chairman) and Henry Maina (left) speaks to the media during the launch of a funds drive to raise Sh150 million to secure Munyakho’s release before the May 15 deadline. PHOTO/Samuel Kariuki
Dorothy Musopole, mother of Stephen Munyakho who was jailed in Saudi Arabia in 2011, flanked by members of the Bring Back Stevo Campaign committee, Joseph Odindo (chairman) and Henry Maina (left) speaks to the media during the launch of a funds drive to raise Sh150 million to secure Munyakho’s release before the May 15 deadline. PHOTO/Samuel Kariuki

The government’s decision to intervene in the case of Stephen Bertrand Munyakho, alias Stevo, who has been incarcerated in Saudi Arabian prisons since 2011 for killing a fellow migrant, is a welcome move.

The burden of raising Sh150 million as compensation, referred to as blood money, that his family is being compelled to pay to secure his release or risk him being executed is far beyond what any ordinary Kenyan family can manage.

Munyakho’s mother, Dorothy Musopole, continues to bear the brunt of the anguish after her son was jailed, having to raise his three children and rally the country to help her raise the blood money that a Shariah court awarded the victim.

Musopole acknowledged that she was not in a position to raise such money in her entire life.

Munyakho had moved to Saudi Arabia as a labour migrant at the tender age of 22, having secured a job through a firm. He had acquired formal residence there. Records show he had even acquired a Muslim name, Abdulkareem.

Munyakho’s case illustrates a new challenge in the realm of migration that governments in both origin and destination countries cannot turn a blind eye to.

Kenya is a source of migrant workers and a transit country, especially for labourers from the East African Community heading to the Middle East.

The country has had its fair share of untold sufferings that female domestic workers are subjected to by their employers in some Arab countries, some returning to their families in coffins.

Until recently, when bilateral agreements were reviewed and new policies adopted to guarantee the safety of labourers in Middle Eastern countries, victims of torture in the Gulf were always blamed for the fate that befell them.

As Kenya continues to negotiate with Saudi officials for the release of Munyakho, there is no known case of any employer in Gulf countries ever being held liable by a Kenyan court for causing bodily harm to a labourer, let alone their death.

Kenya must tighten migration policies included in bilateral agreements so that migrants accused of offences in a foreign country are treated fairly or alternative conflict resolution mechanisms deployed.

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