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Family seeks baby stolen 60 years ago

By | Mar 3rd 2010 | 4 min read

By Michael Oriedo

For many, this story will read like a tale cut out from a well-crafted novel. However, to Francis Sang and his family, anguish engulfs them every time the sun sets without knowledge of the whereabouts of their sister, Rachel Jerotich, who disappeared 60 years ago.

According to Sang, the mystery began in 1950 when his mother, Sarah Chebet, now 80, left home in Kaplang, Bureti District to attend an initiation ceremony at her parents’ home in Sotik District.

Francis Sang

Then pregnant, Sarah developed labour pains during the ceremony. Midwives assisted her to deliver twin girls.

However, the babies were pre-mature. They advised her to take them to Kericho District Hospital. "The only vehicle in the area was a Government Land Rover. Neighbours traced the driver and asked him to ferry my mother to hospital," says Sang.

Sad news

A nurse admitted Sarah and her daughters at the hospital. Sang says trouble began the next morning when the nurse informed his mother that the babies had died and their bodies disposed off by the hospital. Though crestfallen, Sarah left believing the nurse’s word and informed her husband. However, few months later, she got word from a relative that the driver, Kipsenge arap Kauria, was nursing a baby girl.

She confronted Kipsenge who denied the allegations saying the baby, whom he had named Rachel Jerotich, belonged to him. Unconvinced, Sang says his parents filed a complaint at an elders’ court, which then held its sittings in Kapkatet, Kericho District.

The court summoned Kipsenge who insisted the baby was his. "Elders asked him to bring the baby’s mother to prove his allegation. They also told my parents that they would summon them for the next hearing," says Sang.

However, this did not happen. After some time, his parents went back to the court and inquired only to be told Kipsenge had brought the baby’s mother.

"To date, my mother does not know what transpired at the court but she believes the elders were compromised," says Sang.

Later, Sang says his mother learned from the nurse’s niece that her aunt and Kipsenge had baby girls who they had picked from the hospital. However, the one taken by the nurse had died but Kipsenge’s was still alive.

Armed with the evidence, his parents went back to the court in Kapkatet. The nurse and her niece were summoned but the girl declined to testify against her aunt. Elders then dismissed the case.

Defeated, Sang says his parents gave up. However, his mother monitored Kipsenge’s whereabouts.

In 1966, she learned that Kipsenge had ‘married’ Rachel.

"They had a baby girl who later died," he says. Later, she found out that Rachel had fled the home and got married in Nyanza.

Rachel Jerotich, right, with Kipsenge arap Kauria who allegedly stole her from a hospital. Jerotich’s mother is still looking for her. Photo: Michael Oriendo and Courtesy/Standard

"We did not give it a thought until 2005 when Kipsenge’s relatives came to seek forgiveness," recounts Sang.

Known thieves

According to Sang, they admitted that their brother, who died in 1989, stole Rachel while working in Kericho.

"The family believed Kipsenge’s action had brought a curse upon them and sought forgiveness. They confessed that he had stolen Rachel at Kericho District Hospital from my mother," says Sang.

Though they did not reconcile, Sang says his family requested them to help trace Rachel.

"They told us she was at Awasi in Nyanza. I drove to the area and reported to the assistant chief who helped us in the search. We met a woman who fitted her description but she was not the one," he says.

Mr Stanley Laboso, a relative to Kipsenge says Rachel lived at their home in Sotik District but eloped with a man from Nyanza about 40 years ago.

"We have tried to help Sang’s family locate her but in vain," he says.

Sang says he has visited many parts of Nyanza trying to track his sister.

"I have met several women who claim to be her but I dismiss them after listening to their backgrounds," he says.

In 2008, desperate to find Rachel, the family visited a seer in Kedowa, Kericho who informed them that Rachel was living in Muhoroni.

"I have unsuccessfully combed several villages in Muhoroni," he says.

Sang’s mother, Sarah Chebet, says that she believes her daughter is alive.

"I have never given up. I know she is alive and I am longing for the day I will see her," she says. When Rachel disappeared, 44-year-old Sang was not yet born. However, he says he has to find his elder sister to stop his mother from worrying. During the interview, Sang called a woman who someone had informed him might be Rachel. But after a lengthy conversation, Sang dejectedly informed me that she was not the one.

Sang says their search has been difficult because Rachel does not know she has brothers and sisters.

"We know she has grown old. But wherever she is, we want her to know that she has a family and her mother is alive. We also want to meet her family," he says.

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