An investigative report published today by Identity Kenya magazine present findings that Nairobi police officers routinely target gays, bisexual and closeted married men for extortion.
Sexual acts between men are illegal under Kenyan statutes and carry a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment.
The report reveals how several police officers stationed in, or operating from Nairobi’s Central Business District (CBD) police extort money from gay men under the threat of arrests and prosecution.
Last week, Nelly, an Identity Kenya contributor who runs a movie business was arrested by six plainclothes police officers who alleged he was peddling and selling gay porn.
‘They asked me for KShs 100,000 (â‚¬944, $1,187) and told me to call my friends to contribute,’ Nelly told Identity Kenya.
Nelly only had a fifth of demanded sum to hand the police officers and was released.
He was told that the police knew his identity from a website he uses to sell his merchandise and also from the Facebook where he advertises his business.
Anthony Oluoch, the former Legal and Human Rights Officer based at the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK) told Identity Kenya that police blackmail and extortion is main crime report to the organisation by married men, accounting for over 30% of the cases.
Oluoch said that most blackmailers are straight masquerading as gays or gay men. Police officers routinely use socially networking and dating sites, such as Gay Kenya, GayRomeo, Gaydar and ManJam where men use to arrange for dates.
Last month a Catholic priest was blackmailed via this method. After arranging to meet a man on a dating site, police burst into his hotel room and handcuffed both men, and to the priest to a police station.
The priest, nicknamed as Jackob was asked KShs 850,000 (â‚¬8,014 $10,000) after giving the officers KShs 10,000 he was released. The man the priest arranged a date was apparently not arrested and disappeared, which led Jacob to suspect he was involved in the set up.
Speaking with Gay Star News, Denis Nizoka, editor of Identity Kenya and author of the report said: ‘I was a witness when Jacob was being dragged and forced into a waiting car to be taken to a police station.
‘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. I hope that the police can be reformed to make it more LGBT friendly and enable victims to seek justice.
‘Most activists I have discussed the report with are afraid of engaging in cases of blackmail by the police for two reasons.
‘One, is where can this be reported to when the officers from the police itself are engaging in such crimes?
‘Secondly, there are fears that if the police are made aware that they are being watched it may lead to further undesirable consequences. Issues of safety are also a concern with many fearing they may be further targeted and with extra-judicial killings that are common in Kenya.
‘I therefore understand these concerns and it is also a risk I am taking along with Identity Kenya in reporting the routine misconduct of elements within the Nairobi CBD police.’
Blackmail and extortion targeting LGBT people in Kenya is a very common crime. In June GSN reported on criminal gang which is using dating sites and Facebook to meet closeted LGBT people in Kenya, who they then blackmail.
Names of the victims in the article have been changed in order to protect their identity.