Jael Akhonya sits under a mango tree outside her muddy house, looking at the entrance of her home, hoping her firstborn daughter will walk back home.
Akhonya, 30, from Musembe Village, Shinyalu constituency, looks at her phone to see whether she can receive a text or a call informing her of the whereabouts of her missing daughter, who has been missing for 11 days.
For Akhonya, November 17 will remain etched in her memories forever after her daughter, Diana Muhenje, 15, who had just finished her 2023 KCPE examination at Mashindu Primary School went missing while in the company of her two friends.
Three individuals had left their homes at 9 am for Kakamega Forest to collect firewood, and that marked the last day 15-year-old Diana Muhenje was seen.
Akhonya was in the forest with her daughters, and they had planned to take different routes to collect firewood, intending to meet at a common point before heading back home.
Akhonya said the situation took a turn for the worse when an alarm was raised about Kenya Forest guards approaching for their daily inspection. Fearing potential consequences, the three girls ran in different directions.
According to Akhonya, two of her daughter's friends, who managed to escape the forest safely, reported that Diana ran away, saying she intended to alert her mother to prevent any possible arrest. Unfortunately, this is how she got lost in the forest.
Akhonya said: “I believe she was confused by the forest routes, but we are asking ourselves how she got lost, yet we have been collecting firewood in the forest for five years, and she is well-versed with the terrain of the forest.”
What concerns her the most is the uncertainty surrounding whether her daughter is still alive. She fondly describes her daughter as a cheerful and hardworking girl with aspirations of becoming a fashion designer.
“What I am always praying for is the safety of my daughter and that nothing bad should happen to her.”
The mother of five took the matter to Buyangu Police Station, but as of now, there has been no feedback from the officers regarding the whereabouts of her missing daughter.
As 1.4 million Standard Eight candidates received their marks on Friday, Muhenje was absent to collect hers, and her mother received the grades on her behalf.
Akhonya expressed a mix of sorrow, saying: “Diana got 155 marks out of a possible 500 marks, and even if she performed dismally, it would be better and joyful if she could be with us and be the one receiving her own results."
Benard Luvembe, Diana’s father, is praying for his daughter's safety, appealing to security personnel to expedite efforts in locating the lost girl.
“I hardly sleep or eat because I do not know whether my daughter is eating or sleeping. I only plead with the security agencies to help my family get my daughter and she can come back home,” said Luvembe.
Shinyalu Sub-County Police Commander Daniel Mukumbu promised to delve deeper into the matter before providing any comments. Kakamega Forest manager James Gichei did not respond to texts or answer calls.