UNITED Nations staff have been lured into armed robberies and blackmailed by criminals stalking dating apps in Kenya, according to UN security officials.
After meetings in public places and some preliminary rapport-building, victims are lured to “an unknown apartment” where they are “locked in, held at gunpoint and robbed of their money, phone, credit cards and other valuables by an organised criminal group”, a recent UN warning to senior management stated.
That internal advisory message, obtained by IRIN, said staff or their family members seeking same-sex meet-ups are particularly being targeted. In some cases, threats of “exposure” accompany demands for payments (made with mobile money) even after the initial robbery.
The message, sent to members of the UN’s in-country security management team, stated: “online dating opens the doors to certain vulnerabilities.”
Nairobi hosts the UN’s largest presence in the developing world and is a key hub for humanitarian efforts in the East Africa region. Sodomy in Kenya is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, and human rights groups say harassment and homophobia are rife.
These laws are being challenged on constitutional grounds by activists, including the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. Contacted by phone, an officer with the Nairobi diplomatic police told IRIN he was not aware of the UN warning.