Story Of Kenyan Woman Who Intercepted Plot To Sell Her In Saudi Arabia

The journey from Nairobi to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia was without incident. The following day she was in the Gulf.

Story Of Kenyan Woman Who Intercepted Plot To Sell Her In Saudi Arabia
An image of Saudi Arabia's capital city, Riyadh, at night. /FILE

Despite many horror stories on what befalls Kenyan women in the Gulf countries being featured all over local media spaces, Linet Bonareri Ontweka still deemed it fit to try her luck there.

Bonareri is married with three kids and heard about women travelling to Saudi Arabia through her friends. On March 31, 2022, she travelled to Saudi Arabia with the help of an agent after her efforts at finding a job locally hit a dead end.

The journey from Nairobi to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia was without incident. The following day she was in the Gulf.

However, she noted that the journey from Riyadh, the capital, to her new workstation was further than she had been made aware of. Her job was handling domestic chores for a Saudi couple with their two children.

A picture of Linet Bonareri Ontweka who went to Saudi Arabia. /WHATSAPP

“I worked for three months straight but there was no pay forthcoming. I opted to go on a go-slow. This prompted them to pay me just half the amount they owed me,” Bonareri who left her children and husband in Kenya told Viral Tea.

Bonareri then learnt that her hosts were planning to indenture her (sell her off) to another employer. She decided that the best she could do was escape and seek help elsewhere.

She vanished from her place of work on August 30, 2022, however, she was arrested when seeking for help from the police and was subsequently handed over to the offices of the agent’s contact in Saudi Arabia.

She claims that since then, beatings and forced labour are the order of the day. Currently, she and other Kenyan women facing the same predicament have been coerced into a sweatshop formation where they work all day packaging honey in bottles for no pay.

Her relatives in Kenya got wind of her predicament but upon trying to inquire from the local agent that facilitated her travel, no useful information was forthcoming.

The family accused Joytom Manpower and Travel Agency headed by one Mercy Kawara of being seemingly helpless in addressing the situation which was part and parcel of the initiators.

Copies of a contract signed between Bonareri and an employment outfit known as Contrabil Limited show that she was to work for two years as a housemaid in Saudi Arabia at a payment rate of 900 Riyals (Ksh29,286 per month). Even this amount, with all the risks involved, has remained a mirage in a foreign land.

Bonareri’s family fears that just like other cases of Kenyan women undergoing abuse and even death in the Gulf, their kin might join the list if help does not reach her in good time.

On Monday, October 31, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary (CS) Alfred Mutua met representatives of employment agents who recruit Kenyans for jobs in Saudi Arabia and other regions.

"My mission was to understand the issues so that as a Government we can ensure that Kenyans in the Diaspora are safe and sound. The information gathered paints a different story from the blame-game trending in the media channels.

"We want to move to a point where we get to the root cause of the challenges that Kenyans face while working with governments and states that are offering opportunities for our people. The reality is that something is very wrong," he stated after the meeting.

Mutua's Trip To Saudi Arabia To Address Crisis

He flew to the Gulf country on Wednesday, November 2 to meet the authorities and Kenyan Diaspora with a view to gathering more information that would enable him to institute long-lasting solutions to the challenges faced by Kenyan workers.

"It's clear that the problems facing some of our people start back home in Kenya. The system is flawed and corrupt and unless it's fixed, nothing will change.

"There is massive corruption in how Kenyans are prepared before they leave to be domestic workers in Saudi Arabia and follow up of Kenyans when they arrive," Mutua disclosed on the major reasons Kenyans are suffering in Saudi Arabia.

His ministry had expressed the aim of weeding out illegal agencies, some of which are owned by prominent Kenyans, by blacklisting them to ensure that they don't run.

Foreign Affairs CS Alfred Mutua holds a meeting with representatives of employment agents who recruit Kenyans for jobs in Saudi Arabia and other regions on Monday, October 31, 2022. /FACEBOOK.ALFRED MUTUA

Mutua also remarked that his ministry aims to work on a modality to get Kenyan labour agencies to have offices in Saudi Arabia to deal with issues concerning their clients.

"I have requested amnesty to be granted to Kenyans who have fallen out of status and are residing here illegally, those who cannot access medical care so that their documents can be legalized, and others given passage to return home. 

"The Kenyan Government is also dispatching additional staff to the Riyadh Embassy to assist in the process of legalizing Kenyans who are out of status and processing travelling documents and other necessary work," Mutua offered hope.

Other solutions that were tabled to aid Kenyans living in Saudi Arabia include setting up a joint technical team of Kenyans and Saudi Arabian Government officials to fast-track labour issues, including the issue of exit visas.