There was celebration in a sleepy village of Nganue, Kaiti constituency, Makueni County, when a man who went missing 46 years ago returned home yesterday.
David Malelu, a father of three, said he spent many years working as a farmhand in Tanzania.
According to some family members and neighbours who received Malelu, 84, yesterday morning, he was last seen in 1972 while working in a Mombasa hotel.
His wife, Ruth Malelu, 75, said he disappeared with another woman whom she suspected might have influenced him to abandon the family.
“He went missing years back. I don’t know when but the last time I saw him he was with another woman,” said Ruth, adding she later went to visit him in Mombasa but did not find him.
When Malelu finally returned home yesterday, he had only Sh500 and a small bag full of dirty clothes.
Ruth expressed her joy at the reunion, saying she had despaired after searching for her husband in vain.
“We looked for him in mortuaries, hospitals and Kenya’s major prisons but we didn’t find him,” she said.
Malelu said he didn’t have a specific reason for leaving his family for so long.
“I thank God I’m home at last, although I can’t tell why I abandoned them. But there came a time when I said I must find my family,” he said.
Malelu said he worked in orchards in Tanzania’s Kawaya village in Mkarama, among other places, earning TSh100, 000 (KSh4,400) per season.
Although he declined to state the whereabouts of the ‘other woman’, he said he saw no benefit of running away from a wife he loved.
He then talked about his journey back home.
“I didn’t exactly know my destination when I left Tanzania; it took me three days on the road. When I arrived at the Kenya-Tanzania border in Oriri, I found my way in by bribing a policeman who was manning the entrance because I had no passport,” said Malelu, whose feet were swollen from the many kilometres journeyed.
He said he could only remember a nearby market, Nunguni, and from there he was directed to his home by boda boda operators.
In the years the old man has been away, his three children have grown up, finished school, married and had children. His only son, Sammy Malelu, died in his absence.
Malelu’s cousin, Daniel Kilonzo, speaking on behalf of the family, said they had been praying for the old man to return home alive or to be able to bury his remains so they could have peace.
“We welcomed him home and we will ensure that everything is done to restore his deteriorating health.”
Benson Muthoka, the family chairman, said Malelu would be given time to recover, and that they had accepted him back into the family.
A neigbour, Wayua Kimanthi, said she had been married in the village for more than 30 years and had never seen Malelu.
And a pastor identified as Patrick Mwele who led villagers in celebrations following Malelu’s return called on the locals to accept him back into the society.
“I also call on others who have left their homes to return,” said Mr Mwele.