Arusha — IT is not easy being a parent, but the situation gets even harder if you happen to live in Arusha. Despite grappling with the sad reality of toiling to fend for the family and fulfil parental duties, you are forced to live a life of uncertainty and fear.
As, each passing day a child or two goes missing and shortly after a ransom note is dispatched to their hapless parents, demanding between 4m/- and 6m/-. Mr Daudi Saudi Safari is the precinct chairman for Ilkiurei, the ward from which one of the missing children was abducted.
"We reported the matter to the police, but until now they have not been able to trace the culprits," he said.Regional Police Spokesperson, Mr Rashid Nchimbi said the issue has indeed been reported to the police and is currently being investigated.
"But, the Regional Police Commander (RPC), Mr Charles Mkumbo, is currently attending sessions at the Regional Commissioner's office, once through, he will issue an official statement," he added.
The populous Kwa-Mrombo section of the city seems to be more susceptible to the scary child kidnapping rackets. Many of the affected parents are scared to talk about their predicaments as they have been strictly warned, but at least four managed to reveal what happened.
"My six-year old child, Maureen David, was playing with others outside and suddenly her colleagues came and told me that a man had appeared and gave her a candy before leaving with the girl; other children thought the stranger was a relative," said Mr David Njau, the father of the child and a resident of Olkerian area.
Little Maureen happens to be a Class One pupil at Lucky Vincent Primary School here.
They searched for the missing child all night long but the following day, a handwritten note was dispatched to the parents, demanding 4 million/-. "If you try to trace us or contact the police we will send you a parcel with Maureen's head in it," the note threatened.
The following day, a parcel arrived from the kidnappers; but it contained the girls' clothes as the criminals tried to express the message that they seriously meant business. Another child, Iqram Salim, aged only three years, went missing from Burka area and his grandfather, Mr Kassim received a phone call from the kidnappers demanding 2m/-.
"I negotiated with them and settled for 300,000/- which I sent through M-Pesa (mobile money transfer), but after they got the money, the racketeers sent me a message that they needed more cash and won't release the child," said Mzee Kassim, who was in tears.
Two more children went missing on Monday evening, these are Ayoub Fred aged 3 years and 8 months and Bakari Suleiman aged 3 years and 6 months. Both were abducted from the Field-Force section of Kwa-Mrombo area.
Ayoub's mother, Agness Hussein said they have reported the matter, including the suspects' phone numbers, but until now nothing has been done to rescue the kidnapped babies.
"These are little boys and we are not sure if they are being fed well, washed or even sleeping properly; we fear for their health," wept Agness. Apparently, the kidnappers' phone numbers are still active and she wonders how come the police have not yet been able to arrest them.
Mr Daudi Safari was even more baffled; "We have been hearing incidents of people getting arrested for insulting others via short (SMS) or WhatsApp messages; how come it gets difficult to capture these blackmailers?" But, as we were going to press, fresh reports had it that, the police were zeroing in on the location of one of the suspects' numbers which was traced yesterday.