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Region Overview: The Horn of Africa

City in Focus 2012

Exodus Cry has been rallying intercessors and abolitionists to pray for the ending of human trafficking since 2007. A major part of that effort has been developing city profiles that bring awareness of how sex-trafficking functions in various regions by highlighting the similarities between local expressions and global trends as well as noting the differences. This injustice is found at the ends of the earth as well as in our own backyards.

Human trafficking is not confined by international borders. Our research has only underscored that human trafficking knows no bounds. The most reliable numbers suggest that as many as 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, and while there are similarities to the stories of many, there are many important nuances and differences as well. As much as it would be easier for us to comprehend a single path into slavery or a single “slave trade route,” the trends in modern-day slavery make this impossible.

This year, we are approaching our City in Focus feature a bit differently than we have in the past. The cities will be grouped into regions, four throughout the year with three cities per region, so that we can target specific systems of trafficking in prayer. The three cities we select for each region will be hubs for varying reasons, and by praying for cities grouped by region, we hope to see God break in with light and justice on entire systems of sex trafficking, not just in one city.

We invite you to take your place as an intercessory abolitionist, a voice before heaven, and cry out to the God of the Exodus to bring freedom around the globe. Every Monday night at 8pm CST you can join us live via webstream from the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. We’re believing God to break in and exalt the name of Jesus over and above the scourge of sex trafficking in the earth.

The Horn of Africa

We have selected the Horn of Africa as our first regional focus in 2012. The typical list of devastations that plague many parts of Africa ravage this region, and make people particularly vulnerable: poverty, poor education, unemployment, and HIV/AIDS. In addition, these countries cannot effectively control or track the flow of people across borders and suffer from a massive immigration crisis, generally into Kenya and out of the surrounding countries. Imagine a stretch of border 250 miles long that is so porous that roughly 200 people a week can simply walk from one nation to another undetected and you have the beginning of an understanding of the problem Kenya is facing with its African neighbors. And where there are people on the move, there is an opportunity for human trafficking.

But it gets worse. Currently the Horn is facing a food and water crisis due in part to the largest drought the region has experienced in 60 years. The famine of 1984-85 claimed the lives of 1 million people in Ethiopia and Sudan. The current crisis is not yet classifiably a famine, says the Guardian, but between Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Somalia, 10 million people are in danger. The regular droughts that in the past have come once every 10 years are getting closer together, recently spaced only 1 year apart. DaDaab, a refugee camp engineered to house 90,000 people, sits just across the Kenyan-Somali border. Because of the drought and threat of Islamic radicals, DaDaab has swollen far beyond its capacity to 450,000 people. At the height of the crisis last summer, Christian Aid reported that between 1,300 and 1,500 people were daily streaming into DaDaab’s three camps. Nick Guttman, head of Christian Aid’s emergency programs, reported that Ethiopia’s Kobe camp for refugees, engineered to house 25,000 people, was maxed to capacity just a month after opening last June.


A big part of the problem is that the radical Somali Muslim organization al-Shabaab is looking to institute a strict application of Muslim shari’a law, a state-wide implementation of the rules and values of the Koran. In keeping with this agenda, al-Shabaab has rejected outright any influence from western powers, including intervention by aid organizations. In November, al-Shabaab raided the offices of many prominent aid organizations (including World Vision) in southern Somalia and cut off all aid including food and medical supplies critical to the survival of 160,000 children.

All of this amounts to a heightened vulnerability for women and children throughout the region. With dire and desperate circumstances comes a migration of people that otherwise would not be happening, and with so many people on the move it is nearly impossible to track who is where—or who is missing. Thousands heading to refugee camps to Arab nations provides an easy cover for smugglers and traffickers moving victims to major city centers. Displaced peoples rarely have the appropriate papers to begin with, and traffickers can easily inveigle trusting and desperate people with even the flimsiest promise of protection and hope.

Predator and Prey

When UNICEF conducted an investigation into human trafficking in Africa, they found that almost half of the women interviewed regularly experienced physical abuse. The climate and culture of gender inequality has subjugated women to a de facto second hand status which provides the basis for all manner of abuses and human trafficking. This continent-wide trend is only magnified within the sprawling refugee communities in DaDaab, where young girls face molestation and abuse each night on the outskirts of the camp, far from the protection of the scant police presence.

But if this seems at all ad hoc, think again. One Kenyan human trafficking expert told the Guardian that human trafficking in the Horn of Africa is a very developed network of professionals. The network includes representatives and allies in every agency and aspect of transportation, including “politicians, senior police officers, NGOs, senior immigration officials, airline officers and resettlement officials in various countries. The general flow of people in this region is from surrounding countries, into Kenya and more specifically Nairobi, where human trafficking victims are then either dispersed to tourism destinations or countries abroad.

Children for Sale

Places like Mombassa, Kenya, a coastal resort city just a few hundred miles south of Mogadishu, has become  a sex-tourism hot spot. The awful thing about human trafficking globally is that it can be a bit like the game whack-a-mole. As one area of the world gains notoriety as a “hot spot,” governing officials crack down through a rash of new legislation. Sex-buyers, particularly those in search for child prostitution markets, get the point. Before you know it, another region sprouts up as the new “it” spot. In the last 20 years or so, Thailand, Costa Rica, and the Philippines have all at one point or another ebbed and flowed. Now, Kenya is in the limelight.

A study conducted by the African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN), indicates that there is an increase in the numbers of women and children trafficked not only within the Horn countries, but also out to other nations such as Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, and even Arab countries like Yemen and Saudi Arabia which are just a short trip across the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea from the Horn.  The United Nations High Commission for Refugees reports that many refugees seeking asylum in nearby Yemen travel the frequented Ethiopia-Djibouti trucking corridor only to be swept up into the sex trade by organized criminal activity.

All of this amounts to a familiar story: when war, poverty, disease, and drought send hundreds of thousands fleeing from their homes in desperation, there are always those criminal enterprises who look to capitalize on their vulnerability. For the first part of this year we will take a deeper look into a few key cities in the Horn of Africa and learn how we can intercede on behalf of the poor and vulnerable.

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