Tears of joy flowed freely during the homecoming of Anne Chebet, who had disappeared for 20 years from Koisagat village in Kipkelion West constituency.
Chebet’s mother Alice Sigilai said her sixth born daughter of eight children vanished from home in 1998 after dropping out of school in Standard Eight.
“In February 1998, I came home and found my daughter had vanished. All efforts to trace her proved futile. Many nights I cried myself to sleep, wondering whether my daughter was still alive,” said Mrs Sigilai.
The aging mother, who is suffering from diabetes, said just when she was about to lose hope of ever seeing her daughter alive again, a good Samaritan called the Kunyak chief and delivered the news that Chebet was alive in Kinondoni village, Machakos County.
“But the good news came with disturbing information – that my daughter was living in poverty with her nine children,” she said.
The widow added that she quickly shared the news with her family and neighbours and it was decided that Chebet should be rescued.
“We managed to pool our resources and raised Sh10,000 to hire a vehicle for a team that went to bring Chebet home,” said Sigilai.
Chebet’s elder brother, Emanuel Kemei, said the journey to bring his sister home took 14 hours.
And when they got to Chebet’s house, she was nowhere to be found.
“With the assistance of a village elder and a police officer from Mutha Police Station, we went around the village and finally found my sister burning charcoal in a thicket,” said Mr Kemei.
He added that when Chebet recognised him, she was overwhelmed with emotion. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she embraced him.
“When we got back to Chebet’s house, we found her husband and he could not explain why he had never bothered to pay us a visit or pay dowry since he convinced Chebet to elope with him,” said Kemei.
He added that they felt sorry for Chebet because of her living conditions and asked her to dress up her two youngest children and return with them to Kericho.
“We left Chebet’s husband with a word that we were not separating him from his wife and that if he really loves my sister, he should formally come for her,” said Kemei.
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Chebet’s husband Mutua Muthambuki said he lured her to elope with him and moved to Machakos 20 years ago with the promise that they would return to Kericho after his leave.
“When we got to Machakos, we lived on my husband’s savings and when the money ran out, he told me we had to look for manual work so that we could raise the fare but we never managed to because to get money there is a tall order and what we got could barely carter for food,” she said.
Chebet added that to complicate the situation further, the couple’s children came in quick succession.
The mother of nine said after literally slaving for 20 years in the barren Kinondoni village in Machakos, she was ready to start a new life in Kericho as a small-scale maize and dairy farmer.
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