Oklahoma Missionary Sentenced to 40 Years for Raping Nairobi Children, Underscoring the Harm Done by Some Foreigners in Africa

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Matthew Durham, 19, allegedly confessed to sexually assaulting several children at an orphanage in Kenya, police said. (Credit: KFOR)
Matthew Durham, 19, allegedly confessed to sexually assaulting several children at an orphanage in Kenya, police said. (Credit: KFOR)

What happens when foreigners who are supposedly in African nations to help people are actually there to do great harm to children? Matthew Lane Durham, 21, an Oklahoma missionary, was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison for sexually assaulting four children while working in an orphanage in Kenya.

As CNN reported, Durham was sentenced by Judge David L. Russell on four counts of “engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places.”  Further, he must pay restitution of $15,863, as ABC News reported.

“These were heinous crimes committed on the most vulnerable victims. He was their worst nightmare come true,” the judge said.

“In a span of just 33 days,” prosecutors wrote, Durham “raped three girls — ages 5, 9 and 15 — at least eight times. During that same time period, he sexually molested a 12-year-old boy twice.”

The prosecutors added that the condemned man “not only forcefully sexually abused these children,” but “he psychologically damaged them by taking advantage of their trust he received from the children.”

Although a jury found him guilty of seven counts in June, the judge acquitted him on three of those counts on the grounds that  prosecutors failed to make the case that Durham committed a sexual act with the children involved.

Two years ago, Durham began volunteering at the Upendo Children’s Centre to work with neglected children, as he had done three times previously.  The organization, which provides housing, clothes and food to neglected children in Nairobi, is funded by an American citizen and recruits volunteers among Oklahoma churchgoers.  According to the complaint, Durham requested to stay in the school rather than off-site to be in a “better position to assist the children.”  A school employee noticed Durham exhibiting strange behavior towards the children, such as “lingering embraces” and “lying beside some of the children on their beds” at night. Durham was confronted by the school, who held his passport and returned it within days, after which time he returned to the U.S.  Durham claims his confession was coerced in order to reclaim his passport.

Durham’s crimes have reportedly had a chilling effect on foreign volunteers in the east African country who live under a cloud of suspicion. The local community assumes there are more pedophiles lurking among the missionaries, particularly men, and they cannot trust them.

“All I wanted was to follow God’s plan for me,” Durham told the judge, according to ABC News.  “The Upendo kids do not deserve this,” Durham said.  Meanwhile, Eunice Menja, founder of the orphanage, read a statement in court, calling Durham’s sexual abuse “not only a betrayal of the Upendo mission but of the trust Upendo placed in him.”

“Matthew Durham defiled the children,” Menja said, fighting back tears. “Matthew has no remorse. After he got caught, he still denied.”

As damnable as this case may be, there are more.  For example, as The Guardian reported in January, the United Nations uncovered six cases of sexual abuse by French and European Union troops against children in the Central African Republic.  A 7-year old girl reportedly had to perform sex acts in exchange for water and cookies. In addition, the U.N. announced sex assault cases in CAR involving U.N. troops and police from Bangladesh, Congo, Niger and Senegal, and a member of Morocco’s military who served with an African Union mission.

In 2013, France, CAR’s former colonial ruler, sent several thousand troops to the African nation to deal with violence between Christians and Muslims.  An African Union mission came into place in 2014, which was replaced by a U.N. peacekeeping force.  The EU force ended its mission last March.  The Guardian reported that for 2015, there were 22 confirmed allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation in the U.N.’s peacekeeping mission in CAR, and 69 cases in the U.N.’s 16 peacekeeping missions throughout the world — up from 51 cases in 2014.  The crimes involve troops from 21 countries, mostly African nations, according to the Mail & Guardian Africa.

Meanwhile, British Airways has reached a settlement of an undisclosed amount with 38 children in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania over alleged sexual abuse by one of its pilots, the Straits Times reported.  In 2013, First Officer Simon Wood, 54, threw himself under a train at a station near London, before he was due to face molestation charges in court.  Wood reportedly abused African children in schools and orphanages while conducting charity work for the airline.

As the world exploits Africa for its rich natural resources, some of those who are purportedly there to help — including missionaries, volunteers and “peacekeepers”— rape African children, the most vulnerable of the vulnerable.  A time-tested tool of colonization and conquest, missionaries were known to “soften up” indigenous populations in Africa, Asia and the Americas.  They performed a psychic conquest of Black and Brown populations — separating them from their traditions and belief systems, replacing their gods with a god that looked just like the conqueror, and paving the way for the kidnapping, enslavement, subjugation, forced labor, rape and genocide that would follow.

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