Well-known Zambian rapper Clifford Dimba, who performs as General Kanene, was convicted last month in the capital city of Lusaka for defiling a 14-year-old girl.
Dimba's conviction is unusual in this African nation with a significant child sexual abuse problem and a conviction rate for the crime of less than 10 percent. But prosecutors pieced their case together with the help of a doctor trained in evidence collection and court testimony by an East Bay nonprofit.
Dimba's conviction marks one of the first tangible results of an ongoing public-private partnership between Walnut Creek-based Georgian Foundation, the governments of the United States and Zambia, private companies and many East Bay law enforcement agencies. Their goal: to reduce the rate of gender-based violence and child sexual abuse in the southern African nation of more than 14 million.
"The fact that (Dimba) was convicted was a great win for Zambian reality," said Shota Shubladze, development director of Georgian Foundation, a nonprofit founded to help with health care and social welfare needs in post-Soviet Georgia but which has since branched out to other causes. "It's very exciting for us that one of our doctors helped, but we understand the real tangible results will happen later."
In June, the latest delegation of Zambian detectives toured various East Bay police agencies, learning crime-fighting techniques specific to child sex abuse. It's part of Georgian Foundation's five-year initiative to develop the first DNA lab in Zambia, foster exchanges between professionals of both countries and create an HIV post-exposure prophylaxis program, providing drugs to be taken shortly after HIV exposure to stave off the virus.
This newspaper initially reported on this program two years ago, when the first delegation of Zambian doctors, nurses and police officials visited the East Bay. They were led by Lafayette physician Charles Clemmons, who cofounded the nonprofit Zambian Society for Child Protection, which is affiliated with Georgian Foundation. Since then, a second delegation of two pediatricians and a gynecologist visited, and the third arrived at the beginning of June.
"The main goal of this program is to support Zambian officials and their government to respond to the large number of child sexual abuse in their country," said Shubladze, whose agency helped orchestrate an unprecedented agreement in May 2013 between four Zambian ministries and the United States.
On Thursday, three Zambian police detectives met with the nonprofit in a Walnut Creek law office conference room to discuss their monthlong trip.
"Generally, child sexual abuse in Zambia is a big problem," said Vincent Siabona, a 37-year-old Zambian detective chief inspector, who wore a blue "Urban Shield" T-shirt he recently got from the Alameda County Sheriff's Office. "There are a lot of factors. No. 1, the cultural background of youth marriage."
Zambian national law calls for a minimum marrying age of 21, with 16 being the age of consent. However, the country has many villages that follow customary law, which allows for arranged marriages at puberty.
Customary marriage is considered lawful if there's a dowry paid to the wife's family and consent is given by all parties, including guardians if either the husband or (usually) the wife is a minor. In a country where 60 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and 42 percent live in extreme poverty, families often feel compelled to sell their young daughters into a marriage, Siabona said.
In addition, in a country where nearly 17 percent of 17- to 49-year-olds live with HIV and 90 percent of street teens are HIV positive, "medicine men" perpetuate myths that having sex with virgins can cure someone of AIDS.
Throughout June, the Zambian officer delegation visited with Oakland police, Alameda County sheriff's deputies, the CALICO Center in San Leandro to learn about interviewing child victims, the Napa County District Attorney's Office and other officials.
A huge barrier to successful child rape prosecutions in their country is DNA collection.
"Our understanding was DNA was only collected through blood, but we learned you can get it through hair, clothes, sweat and saliva," said Siabona, who must send DNA evidence to South Africa for analysis. "At the end of the day, even when you have the motivation and zeal, without the knowledge and skills you cannot win cases."
Within a year, the nonprofit's efforts will help open the first DNA crime lab in Zambia, joining the already established pediatric center and One Stop Center at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka. In July, Zambian forensic scientists will travel to Utah to work with Sorensen Forensics, a private forensic science lab sponsoring the DNA facility. A final contingent to the Bay Area will eventually include judicial officers and prosecutors.
Doctors treat 1,200 to 1,400 sexually abused children a year at the One Stop Center alone, Shubladze said. But the visiting officers believe many victims do not come forward because speaking about sex in the country is considered "taboo." The trio spent four days at the CALICO Center in San Leandro learning child victim interview skills to help more come forward.
"Children are quite unique and it entails a certain type of interview and skill," said Achaje Magai, a 36-year-old Zambian detective inspector.
"These are special skills that we are not exposed to after police training," Siabona added. "We're going to return to our police and tell them you don't talk to a child like your talking to a suspect or you will lose the case."
Meanwhile, Dimba awaits sentencing. He has rapped about his charges -- the chorus of the song "Kansapato" includes "bamunamizila ati anavala nsapato ya mwana," which translates to "they are accusing him of wearing a child's shoe."
The groups know they have a long road ahead. The song is a Zambian hit.
Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.