A 60-year-old man is being held by police in Isiolo county who married a teenage girl in Biliqo, Merti Sub-county, to allow investigations into the matter. Mr Ali Matamolu was arrested a few days after Gender Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rachel Shebesh, in a tour of the county, said she was disappointed with security organs for delayed action against him.
Ms Shebesh noted that Mr Matamolu was apprehended two weeks after the minor was rescued by Somali Self-Help Group, whose chair is Fani Mohammed.
The suspect was arraigned on Friday and charged with defilement and committing an indecent act between November 27 and December 30, 2019.
Appearing before Isiolo Principal Magistrate Evanson Ngigi, he pleaded not guilty to the two counts.
Reports say Mr Matamolu started cohabiting with the 13-year-old Grade Three pupil in March, when schools were temporarily closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
She was rescued while seeking menial jobs in Isiolo town after running away from the suspect’s home about 230 kilometres from the town.
She met a member of the Somali Self Help Group, that agitates for women and girls’ rights, told her story and was assisted in reporting the matter at Isiolo Police Station.
In court on Friday, investigating officer Nicholas Maurice Odero said the suspect involved the child in harmful, outlawed cultural practices and early marriage.
The officer sought 10 more days to detain Mr Matamolu in order to finalise the probe and arrest other suspects, including the girl’s father, who married her off.
Prosecution counsel Denis Mang’are opposed the accused’s release on bail or bond arguing he will interfere with witnesses and investigations.
The lawyer asked the court to only allow Mr Matamolu’s release after the minor is placed in a safe house or in the care of an organisation such as the Child Welfare Society of Kenya.
“The girl is a victim of early marriage and defilement, which is why we are seeking her placement in a facility,” Mr Mang’are told the court.
Magistrate Ngigi ordered Mr Matamolu’s detention at Isiolo Police Station until November 28 when the case will be mentioned in Merti for setting of the hearing date.
Further, the court said the suspect will only be allowed to apply for release on bond or bail after the minor testifies in court.
“I direct that the minor be placed temporarily at the Child Welfare Society of Kenya and that a children’s officer’s report be submitted in court by November 2,” the magistrate said.
Despite existing laws, forced marriages remain a major impediment to girls’ access to education especially in far-flung parts of Isiolo.
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