14 November 2012

Kenya: Subukia Teacher Shows 'Stolen Son'

Photo: Capital FM
Zachary Musengi, far right, stands next to his mother, Margaret, as they mourn the late George Saitoti.

A Subukia couple claiming that the late Internal Security Minister George Saitoti's son Zachary Musengi is their child who disappeared in 1988 have recounted the horrors they went through in their 24 year search for their third born.

Speaking from their family's home in Kijabe Farm area of Subukia yesterday, 55 year old teacher Sebastian Maina Ngunju and his 55 year old wife Elizabeth Njeri told of how they had traveled across Kenya's borders in the years following their son Stephen Wachira's disappearance in a frantic search for him.

Maina recalled that he would get numerous tip offs from police officers attached to the Criminal Investigations Department that his son had been sighted at various far away locations.

In hindsight, the primary school teacher says that the officers were sending him on a wild goose chase in order to tire his spirit and resolve.

He however says that at the time, he was too anxious to find his son who went missing three weeks before his third birthday.

"I was sent to Maralal, Poror, Isiolo, Garissa, Mandera and Elwak through which I accessed Somalia to a town 60 kilometres from the border. At the time, there was heavy fighting there so there was little I could do to search for Stephen," Maina said.

He added that his search also took him to a town in Ethiopia, 160 kilometres from the Kenyan border at Moyale where some police officers had told him his son had been seen.

At one point, he also crossed the border to Tanzania after yet another tip off. Other areas he visited during his five year active search that he eventually gave up in 1993 were Nakuru, Nyahururu, Gatundu, Mombasa, Malindi and Isebania.

When The Star visited the couple at their two storey home on a four acre farm in Subukia, Njeri, a nurse at the local district hospital was asleep after being on night shift at the hospital.

After she awoke, she recounted the many sleepless and tearful nights she spent after her son's disappearance as she warmed a cup of porridge for him.

"My two older children left to run an errand for kerosene. They left him behind and he came in to the house crying. To placate him, I told him to go play outside while I warmed some porridge for him. Less than 20 minutes later when I went to fetch him he was gone," the nurse, a mother to four other children said.

"My days have been terrible, praying so many prayers that remained unanswered. But I had faith that because God had not taken my son, then one day he would come back to me," she said.

She recalled that a neighbourhood search was hastily convened but did not yield any fruits as her son had "disappeared without a trace."

The day was August 31, 1988, a day that she says she privately commemorates every year with her husband away from the prying eyes of their four other children whom she said she did not want to see her grieve.

Her husband recalled getting little help from the local police station as on three occasions when he went to report the disappearance he was told to go and look for his child in the neighbours' houses.

It was only after a woman from their neighbourhhod named Mary Wambui was arrested and charged that police officers started threatening Maina and his family with dire consequences if he did not drop the matter.

"I was told that my son was with a powerful figure in government and that he was happy and comfortable and that if he was ever to be found, it would be through the mysterious ways of God," Maina recalls.

He added that eventually, during the trial of Wambui, one special branch officer that was known to him pulled him aside and intimated that his son was with the Vice President and asked him to let the matter lie.

"I never really believed it, though I was too intimidated to press the matter further. So I dropped it and when the case against Wambui was thrown out of court for lack of evidence, I let the matter lie. However, inside, I always had my suspicions," the school teacher said.

He said that after spotting Zachary on TV during Saitoti's burial on June 15 this year, he went on facebook and accessed his page where he downloaded his photos.

"We were stunned by how much he looks like my other children," Maina said. However, a few days later, the page was shut down.

He reveals that after the family's lawyer Hari Gakinya wrote to Zachary, the young man called the lawyer's office and asked that childhood photographs of the couple's lost son be emailed to him. That was the last they heard from him.

"We want him to come back to his family and to know that he is not a destitute and that he was not thrown away," Maina says with resolve.

The couple has filed a suit at the Nakuru magistrate's court seeking to be allowed to privately prosecute Saitoti's widow Margaret for wrongfully keeping in confinement a kidnapped person.

Magistrate James Mwaniki is expected to rule on the case today (Wednesday). "I have heard people say that I am doing all this because I want Saitoti's money. I do not, I am comfortable and I am richer than he was because of my children including the one in his home," Maina said.

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