By Fred Kai and Murimi Mutiga.
Fifteen Kenyans who were allegedly detained by a Somali businessman on Wednesday evening arrived safely in Mombasa after a harrowing 2-year stay in the Coast of the Horn of Africa nation.
The 15 say, throughout their stay in Somalia, they were coerced to work — as fishermen — in the tycoon’s ship in Bosaso, the north-eastern part of the country, under distressing conditions.
The seamen say the owner of the vessel often brandished a gun as he monitored them work.
The Kenyan Government intervened when the plight of the 15 was highlighted in the media, resulting in their release early this week.
The 15 were brought home by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).
Upon arrival, the seafarers revealed the nerve-racking experiences they went through.
“The ship owner at one point threatened to shoot all of us dead. We were often denied food and water. He also barred us from calling or texting our families back in Kenya,” Mitau Makau, one of the seamen, told K24 Digital.
Makau says they had signed a 2-year contract with the businessman, which stipulated that he pays them their wages on a monthly basis. Each of the seamen, according to their contract, was to receive $260 (Ksh27, 000) per month.
“After two months, the businessman terminated our contracts. Out of the 24 months that we were to render our services to him, he only paid us for six months. We are now urging the Kenyan Government to intervene so that we receive our unpaid salaries,” said Makau.
The fishermen say the Somali national owes them — collectively — Ksh7.3 million in unpaid wages.
The vessel that they operated, FV Marwan 1, had 54 crew members on board and was loaded with 275, 000 kilograms of prawns by the time they were being rescued from the ship.
“Two weeks to our release, we had spent nine days at the home of the vessel owner in Bosaso. Throughout our stay there, he refused to give us food,” said another seaman, Omar Said.
Omar alleges that an agent linking Kenyan fishermen with owners of large-scale fisheries, identified as Andrew Mwangura, lied to them, during recruitment, that they were going to work for a Thai national.