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Mystery of child taken from home but DCI waiting 'for statement'

National
 DCI headquarters, Nairobi. [David Njaaga, Standard]

What started as a naive boy talk has turned into a full-blown investigation spiced with allegations of trafficking spreading between counties, countries and continents.

At the centre of this is a missing mother of a boy, a lawyer and a prospective guardian who are worlds apart.

It was in Mitahato location in Githunguri, Kiambu County, where the boy confided to his friends of how he was mysteriously picked from Kisauni in Mombasa and found himself in Githunguri, Kiambu County, more than 500 kilometres from his mother.

Kamau, whose name we have changed to protect his identity, was reportedly picked by people who he identified as his mother’s friends and taken to a hotel in the area.

Among them was a woman, armed with a letter from a lawyer purportedly granting her the custody of the boy. Kamau was instructed to refer to the woman as his mother.

The whispers of the boy’s account explaining how he innocently found himself in the hands of a stranger reached the authorities through a human rights activist Paul Mwangi.

Mwangi reported the case to Kiambu Police Station and obtained Occurrence Book Number 66/5/2/2.

Boy’s schoolmates

“I was informed by parents of the boy’s schoolmates that he was telling other children in school that the woman who took him to the school is not his real mother,” said Mwangi.

He added: “The boy claimed he was called to a hotel in Mombasa by his mother’s friends and was given clothes to change. They then told him he would be under the care of a woman whom he was supposed to refer to as his mother henceforth.”

What raised the eyebrows was a letter by a Mombasa-based lawyer granting the guardianship of the boy to a woman identified as Monicah Wanjiku Huria.

Moses Waweru, a lawyer from Omondi Waweru and Co Advocates, said he was acting on behalf of Kamau family.

According to the letter seen by The Standard, Waweru said the family had granted the woman the guardianship of the child on claims that the boy’s mother is a drug addict.

The letter mentions a *Mary (not her real name) as the mother of the boy.

“Kindly note that Kamau is the son of Mary, a member of the Kamau family. Mary has abandoned the child by reasons of being a drug addict and in need of support to get out of the addiction. The child is out of school and in need of benefactors,” reads the letter in part.

Further, the letter dated June 6, 2023, reads, “The Kamau family is delighted by your willingness to take up the responsibility of catering for the welfare of the child, including enrolling him in school.”

Lawyer’s letter

“Our instructions are therefore to grant you, as we hereby do, on behalf of the Kamau family, authority as guardian of Master Kamau, to attend to his welfare as provided in the Children’s Act,” the letter signed by Waweru, reads further.

Wanjiku, whose address is indicated as the United Kingdom, also appended her signature in acceptance of being the guardian of Kamau but neither the mother nor any representative of the family signed the letter.

According to Wanjiku, the guardianship of the boy was handed over to her by the boy’s grandmother through a lawyer.

“The mother was not available because of drug issues. She was to appear before the lawyer but she sent her mother (Kamau’s grandmother) to represent her. They agreed I take the responsibility of the boy and I enrolled him in a boarding school,” said Wanjiku when contacted on phone.

She also mentioned that she had enrolled the boy in French classes.

When asked if the matter had been taken to a court of law before she assumed the responsibilities of the boy, Wanjiku said the process was underway.

Even as Wanjiku claimed guardianship of Kamau, the Child’s Act dictates that a child’s guardianship can only be granted through a court order.

In the case where a parent appoints a guardian through a deed or a will, its legal effect only applies after the death of the parent.

In an interview with The Standard, Wanjiku insisted that the boy was rightfully in her custody.

She later changed tune and got defensive, claiming that she was being harassed yet no one had made any report about the child.

“I am the guardian of the boy. I was given the boy by his family. If you want to know more, I can give you the contact of the family. They will tell you how I got the child,” she said.

“I also have the letter from the lawyer and there is a copy of the same letter in the school,” added Wanjiku.

Wanjiku said that if the mother or the family had not reported or complained about the child, no one has a right to question her about the boy and that she was only sponsoring his education.

“Why am I being accused? You think I have stolen the child? I did not steal the child. Ask the family how I got him.”

“I want to know how you picked a case about a child who is not reported to have been stolen or being abused,” she exclaimed.

“There are other people who were looking for me claiming to be from Foreign Affairs. You are putting my life at risk… Let the children’s office write to me or take me to court, we can sort it out there,” she added before hanging up the call.

No comment

When contacted, the lawyer declined to comment about the matter on phone.

“As a lawyer, I cannot disclose any matter I am handling on the phone. It is not professional. Please allow me to end this conversation now,” said Waweru before he hung up the call. 

Waweru also declined to discuss the details of the letter.

In another letter seen by The Standard, Kiambu Children’s Officer Racheal Karanja flagged the matter as a suspected case of child trafficking.

She referred the matter to her counterpart in Githunguri and wrote another letter to Githunguri DCI office requesting for investigations into the matter.

The children’s officer explained that the child was in the location in Githunguri and was studying in a school within the location.

“The client name above (Paul Mwangi) is suspecting that the minor was trafficked from Mombasa. This is to request your office to investigate the case and advise the Directorate of Children Services accordingly in safeguarding the welfare and best interest of the child,” reads the lette

According to lawyer Dunstan Omari, custody of a child can only be granted by a court of law.

However, he noted that parents can enter into a parental agreement granting some rights of their child to another person but the agreement doesn’t not have any legal standing.

“A parent can enter into an agreement with someone to take over some rights of their child but that agreement doesn’t have any legal effect. Such an application must be filed in court for a decision to be made,” said Omari. 

The court subsequently tasks the children’s officer to investigate the circumstances under which the child is being handed over for alternative care and submit a report back to the court.

“The legal process serves the best interest of the child. The investigations would establish if it’s a genuine case or if it is a commercial agreement where the parent could have been paid to give out the child,” said Omari.

Alice Thuo, who claimed to be a relative of the boy, said Wanjiku was granted custody of the boy through a lawyer as the mother could not take care of him.

Thuo also claimed that the mother could not take care of the boy.

“Monicah (guardian) has the right to be with that child and she has all the necessary documents concerning this child. I consented to the guardianship of the child.”

“Monicah is comfortable with educating the child. We are the immediate family of that child and we have not complained. Whatever I want to do with the kid, he is under my care,” said Thuo.

But The Standard could not independently verify if Thuo is a relative of the boy. She, however, also confirmed that Waweru granted the guardianship of the boy to Wanjiku.

“We followed the right process. We are not stupid. You can ask the lawyer about the agreement,” said Thuo.

Thuo further claimed that the mother of the boy was under treatment although she did not disclose what she was ailing from.

However, efforts to investigate the matter could hit a snag as the DCI office in Githunguri were reluctant to swing into action until the complainant records a statement on the matter.

No statement

According to the area DCIO Ali Kingi, no one has recorded a statement regarding the case and that the person who tipped them also did not record a statement.

Kingi said they also required the informer to present witnesses to the station to record statements.

 The detective also questioned why the children’s office had not moved in to take action.

On his part, Mwangi said the officers declined to record his statement and instead, asked him to get the witnesses to give their accounts to the police.

“This is a boy who is here in questionable circumstances but the law enforcers are insisting on issues that should come later. Why can’t they investigate the matter and ensure the boy is safe. Other issues can follow later,” said Mwangi. 

The Standard is also in possession of a letter from Githunguri sub-County Children’s Office summoning the principal of the school where the boy is studying and the guardian to appear for questioning tomorrow.

However, the school’s head teacher said he was not aware of such a letter summoning him or any representative of the school.

He said there is a standard procedure of admitting any child in a school regardless of their origin. 

However, he declined to disclose any information about the boy.

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