East Africa

Countries and territories covered: Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda

1. Status of the legislation on trafficking in persons

At the time of preparation of the Global Report, some of the countries in East Africa (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda and Tanzania) had enacted trafficking in persons legislation. Other countries were in the process of adopting such legislation in 2008, either having presented draft legislation to their legislative bodies or being in an advanced stage in the drafting process.

In the absence of any comprehensive legislation during the reporting period, all the countries had other laws that could be used to prosecute offenders for crimes commonly associated with human trafficking, especially related to child trafficking offences such as "child stealing" and "child abduction", or sexual offences, labour laws, "offences against morals and the family" and many others.

2. The criminal justice response to trafficking in persons

The combined absence of a specific trafficking in persons offence and the low criminal justice response in the region do not allow for the identification of specific regional trafficking patterns or trends during the reporting period. Ethiopia is the only East African country covered in this report that recorded trafficking in persons convictions between 2003 and 2007. These statistics do not improve even when related offences are considered, because few convictions were recorded for offences such as "child stealing" or "child labour" that could be used to prosecute child traffickers.

3. Trafficking in persons patterns

No information was collected during the reporting period on the profile of offenders, and data about victims was also scarce. In most of the countries of the region, the number of victims identified by authorities was zero or unknown during the reporting period. Where the numbers were unknown, victims of trafficking could not be distinguished from other persons in need of assistance or of victims of related forms of crime. Between 2003 and 2007, women and children were generally the victims of trafficking and related crimes.


Trafficking in persons is an ongoing phenomenon throughout Eastern Africa. Trafficking is not only transnational. Internal trafficking is also endemic. Children, women and, to a lesser extent, men are victims of trafficking in, from and to the region.

Girls are trafficked for exploitation in domestic labour, forced prostitution and forced marriage. Trafficked boys are exploited in areas such as farming, livestock, plantation work and fishing. Women are trafficked for domestic labour, forced prostitution and the hospitality industry. Men are trafficked mainly for manual and agriculture labour, construction work and criminal activities.

Internal trafficking in children and women, from rural and urban areas, is mainly for exploitative domestic work and commercial sex. However, transnational trafficking of women to other African countries, Europe and the Middle East is mainly for sexual exploitation and domestic work.

Statistics from a study on child trafficking in Eastern African countries show that the majority of trafficked children are those who have completed primary or secondary education and have nothing to do. Moreover, most of the children are trafficked by people they know (in some cases, by relatives). The most vulnerable age is 13-18 years. HIV/AIDS has also contributed to the trafficking phenomenon; the majority of trafficked children are orphans. African society is a changing one; traditional fostering practices have led to the abuse of fostered children, who are often sold for profit.