A section of Kenyans have urged lawmakers to emulate their Ugandan counterparts and criminalise the giving of material assistance to street children, arguing that it can drive beggars out of the streets.
Following a move by Ugandan MPs to pass a bill that made it a criminal offence to offer money, food or any other donation to a street child, some Kenyans feel Nairobi should follow suit.
As per the bill, any Ugandan who violates the law risks being jailed for up to six months or paying a fine equivalent to Sh1,114.
Kampala’s Mayor Erias Lukwago told the BBC that the law will also penalise traffickers, agents and parents of the children found begging or selling items on the street.
Reacting to the story on Daily Nation’s Facebook platform, Kenyans revealed the schemes beggars use in various town.
These include importation of beggars from neighbouring countries and able mothers coming with their young children to beg on the streets.
They observed that these are the reasons street families need to be removed from towns and placed in environments where they can be assisted in a more structured manner.
“This is the way to go as the so-called street children are merely businesspeople robbing unsuspecting members of the public,” commented Jim Bonnie.
Jerry Abwao stated: “Comical offence but sensible enough; judging from the aggressive antics we encounter in Nairobi mostly from fake street kids.”
But some Kenyans disagreed with any efforts to decriminalise giving.
Waweru Cole argued: “The kids will just become criminals and take the money and valuables themselves.”
Moses Guchu said most of the relatives of the needy children mistreat the minors.
“If you hate them, let those who wish to help continue until government comes up with clear policies on them,” he wrote.
It does not help matters that Kenyans smell trickery in the beggars’ methods.
“There is a woman on Karuna Road in Westlands who is mostly clad in buibui. She once told me begging pays more than a person who is employed,” Evans Mori wrote on the Daily Nation platform.
Kenya ranks very high globally when it comes to giving. A five-year analysis released last year by US-based Charity Aid Foundation ranks Kenyans ninth in the world in a survey of the most charitable individuals per country.
The analysis placed Myanmar at the top, followed by the United States then New Zealand. Sri Lanka closes the top 10 list behind Kenya. There is no African country except Kenya on the top 20 list.
While coming up with the report, Charity Aid Foundation tracked giving trends from sampled people between 2013 and 2017, under the metrics of “helping a stranger”, “donating money” and “volunteering time”.
Ms Janet Mawiyoo, the CEO of the Kenya Community Development Foundation, which promotes sustainable development of communities for social justice, said the unstructured way of giving leads to a heavily dependent population.
“Helping poor people is actually a very complex thing. Many times, people help them and make them dependent, although they thought they were,” she said.