Monday, April 29, 2013

The allure Ethiopians can’t resist down in South Africa

NAIROBI, KENYA: In 1998, the first group of Ethiopian peasants ventured to South Africa to look for greener pastures.
Since then, the trend has been unprecedented, with hundreds of the aliens crossing through the long porous Kenyan border mainly through Moyale
and Sololo Districts of Marsabit County.
The young, largely illiterate men from the southern regions of
Ethiopia are smuggled through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique
before they find their way into South Africa by a well organised cartel spread through these countries.
Investigations by The Standard On Saturday found out the all-men group are mainly from the Kenbata and Adiya speaking communities, whose headquarter is at Hossama in Ethiopia and largely profess the same faith.

Their region of about 15,000sq km has a population of about 10 million people and the locals are farmers.
‘‘The region occupied by the Kembata and Adiya is densely populated. There is a high poverty and unemployment
rate in the area,’’ said an Ethiopian source who is familiar with the racket.
‘‘The young men from these impoverished tribes will do anything to improve their economic life. They are also encouraged by news that
those who ventured into foreign lands before them succeeded,” added the source.
Mr Fikri Nuri, a 20-year-old son of an Ethiopian peasant farmer serving a year jail term in Isiolo said he was arrested en route to South Africa.
‘‘I did odd jobs over a period of two years to raise Sh50,000 to be smuggled to Nairobi and thereafter South Africa,’’ he told The Standard On Saturday at the Isiolo GK Prison.
He hopes to join his friends in Nairobi, who will thereafter travel
with him to South Africa where he has been promised a well paying job.
Died enroute
Nuri and his friends however thank God that they are alive after learning that some of their compatriots had died en route to South Africa.
‘‘I was running away from poverty because I believed in the tale that life is better in South Africa,’’ he
‘‘There are many Ethiopians who have prospered in South Africa. Sometimes this group even contributed money to encourage their relatives to join them,’’ said the source who sought anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Many Ethiopians have permanent homes, established businesses and have bought farms and livestock from remittances send back home by those who ventured into South Africa and other destinations abroad.
Marsabit County Commissioner Isaiah Nakoru says the biggest problem is that the Ethiopians who use the porous border to enter Kenya keep coming despite arrests.
Last month alone, adds Nakoru, more than 100 Ethiopians were arrested in the county while being smuggled to South Africa.
The arrests include 42 Ethiopians nabbed in a GK truck at Laisamis and
a further 58 in a private commercial truck along the same route.
Nakoru says investigations by detectives have shown that the aliens were en
route to South Africa to seek greener pastures.
‘‘They are not refugees running away from either war or political persecutions by young men out to be smuggled to distant foreign lands
to seek better standards of living,” said the official.
While saying Kenya was doing all within its capacity to stop the human trade, the administrator said things would be better if Ethiopia put measures in place to block the practice at home.

Travelers finances
An Ethiopian official who declined to give his name said authorities had moved to arrest members of cartels handling the travelers’ finances. ‘‘We have to work with all the countries between here ( Ethiopia) and South Africa. If we target those transporting them, this thing will go down,’’ he said.
Immediate former Isiolo OCPD Augustine Thumbi said investigations they carried out between 2010 and 2011 showed the Ethiopians were being smuggled out of their motherland by compatriots who had prospered economically.
‘‘Those interviewed said they were joining their well-off relatives and friends in South Africa. Despite the arrests and hardship on the way, they keep on coming,’’ said Mr Thumbi in a past interview.
Brokers involved in the trade and some Immigration officials in Moyale, Isiolo, Nairobi and Namanga gave the same angle.
The ‘successful’ group made money from manual work, hawking and small businesses. Their success soon attracted more Ethiopians like Nuri to South Africa. Thereafter, the trip down to South Africa was taken over by a cartel of Ethiopian and Kenyan businessmen who are now involved in the smuggling.
‘‘The young Ethiopians needed people who can smuggle them across many borders,’’
said one Nairobi-based broker working with Kenyan and Ethiopian smugglers. Yosif said some of them are involved in hawking of goods from Asia, notably China, while others work in supermarkets, and others in the mining and farming industries.
‘‘After making money, the Ethiopians open small businesses stocking
products from China,’’ he said.
Some work with criminals to engage in smuggling, pirating, poaching, drug trafficking, according to multiple sources.
Other sources revealed that the Ethiopians are lured out of the country by remnants of the Government of deposed dictator Mengistu
Haile Mariam. The wealthy remnants of the regime live in South Africa
and other neighbouring countries as refugees. Both the South African High Commission and Ethiopian Embassy in Nairobi did not respond to our queries via e-mail and telephone.