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10 year old child held in Ethiopia for 8 months finally released

By Wilfred Ayaga and Bakari Ang'ela | Oct 8th 2017 | 3 min read
The boy after being released [PHOTO BY BAKARI ANG'ELA]

A family in Kibish Turkana North Sub County is celebrating reunion with their 10-year-old child who had been in custody in Ethiopia for eight months after being abducted by tribal militia.

John Emejen was reunited with his mother Akal Ng’ipeyok in an emotional meeting that ended months of distress for the boy’s family. He was abducted in March this year and taken to Kangaten, 700 kilometres away from the Kenyan border, in a region inhabited by Nyangatom tribesmen.

His mother says he strayed into the neighbouring country when she went to search for firewood. She came back home and found him missing.

“I reported the matter to all the community and even to the Kenyan police who launched a search, only to be informed days later that the boy had been spotted in the custody of a family in the neighbouring country,” she said. The Ethiopian family holding the child were demanding 60 cows whose value is about Sh1.9 million to release the child.

But finally after a lengthy and complicated negotiation process between Ethiopian and Kenyan delegations that took months, the boy was finally released five days ago. 

The rescue mission was led by Turkana North Deputy County Commissioner Erick Wanyonyi and Johnston Ekamais the Turkana County peace Coordinator in charge of Ethiopia and Southern Sudan borders.

The boy recalled his experience in captivity.

“I was not allowed to follow other children to the grazing field or the water points. I was told I would be slaughtered if I followed other children. I was also warned that I should not talk with any stranger,” the boy told Sunday Standard in the company of his mother after he was released from captivity.

The whereabouts of the child were brought to limelight by a businessmen from Ethiopia, who confirmed to the boy’s family that the child was in the custody of a family in the neighbouring country.

When Sunday Standard visited the child in Ethiopia in the company of the Kenyan delegation in August, the mother was not allowed to come back with him until the captor’s demands were met.

“I met my son and I was happy to see him after 7 months. I cried but I was even restricted from shaking his hands,” said the boy’s mother.

The boy later said he was punished for crying on seeing his mother.

“They beat me up asking me why I cried asking to be taken back to Kenya,” said the boy.

“Our meal consisted of boiled maize and sometimes some form of ugali,” said the boy.

The initial rescue trip to Ethiopia kicked off in the early morning of 26 August 2017, and took three days to navigate the bumpy roads. On reaching its destination, the delegation had to be escorted to a police station for safety with negotiations being left in the hands of the Ethiopia peace activists. Humphrey Emase, a peace activist at Sapcone, an NGO, said it was a complicated rescue mission.

“The Nyangatom looked like they wanted to take advantage of this situation to enter into a new agreement with their Turkana counterparts over water and grazing for their livestock in Turkana. The child was used as a bait,” he said.

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