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Kenyan Diplomat Accused Of Domestic Slavery In Rockville Home

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Lucy Mwaka stands outside the Kenyan embassy holding a flier accusing a diplomat of slavery.
Armando Trull/WAMU
Lucy Mwaka stands outside the Kenyan embassy holding a flier accusing a diplomat of slavery.

A young woman from Kenya claims a Kenyan diplomat made her a domestic slave for four years.

Outside the Kenyan embassy, about a dozen protesters chanted on behalf of Lucy Mwaka, the 23-year-old woman says she was lured to America from Nairobi by the Kenyan Embassy's Head of Public Affairs Waithira Njuguna in 2010. Lucy says promises made in writing by Njuguna about good wages, paid medical care and vacations were never kept.

"She was on-call 24 hours a day often working 16 to 20 hours a day and was not allowed to go to sleep until she was given permission to do so," says Sheena Wadhawan, Lucy's attorney.

"I have to wait until she goes to sleep and says, 'Oh, you can turn the lights off,'" Lucy explains.

Lucy says her employer forced her to work for other Kenyan diplomats.

"They say, 'Oh, my house is dirty you need to come and clean up, my kids are hungry you need to cook food for a week,' so I go there and do all that and they don't pay me," Lucy says.

When Lucy did get paid, it was $250 a month, explains Wadhawan, who adds there may be other violations.

"Potential involuntary servitude, perhaps rising to the level of false imprisonment since Lucy wasn't free to move around or leave the residence," Wadhawan says.

Lucy says her employer warned her about running away.

"Threats of what's going to happen to your family, 'Oh you're going to get deported, you're going to be homeless,'" Lucy says.

When asked if she knew what a slave was, Lucy adds: "That was me... that was me."

This past March, Lucy overcame her fears and managed to escape her employer's Rockville, Maryland, town house.

At that same house, Njuguna was asked about the allegations, but declined to respond. Her boss, Ambassador Jean Kamau, did not respond to interview requests either.

Lucy plans to sue Njuguna for $200,000 in back wages and penalties.

"It's better to sleep under a bridge than in a mansion where you feel you can't breathe — I feel great," Lucy says.

Letter to the Kenyan ambassador from attorney for Lucia Mwaka

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