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An abductors' paradise: 'Where are our brothers and sisters?'

Woman's hands died in a knot with a rope. [Courtesy]

Despite boasting an expansive bill of rights, an enlightened population, responsive duty bearers, and credible institutions of criminal justice, Kenya is slowly turning into an abductor's paradise as disappearances peak and people move on.

From being yanked off the streets in broad daylight to cars being blocked on highways, the abductors are growing more and more confident, and the rule of law increasingly losing relevance in the place of jungle law.

In the last few months, tens of Kenyans and foreigners have disappeared into captors' hands. The patterns are forming, and one can almost predict the next kidnapping and how it will end. While some captives are lucky to return home alive- but dump- others are not so lucky.

Human rights organisations are growing weary of reporting the incidents. In the media, the stories of kidnapping have assumed a new sense of normalcy as society degenerates into anarchy and fear of the unknown.

Below are some of the victims of the new wave of abductions, each name underlying the ever-growing pitch for return to rule of law where the rules of natural justice apply to the benefit and protection of all.  

Zena Wanjiku, 37, Bakari Juma, 44 and Hussein Athman, 36

The trio was abducted by armed men in Nairobi’s Allsops area, along Thika Road, on November 18, 2021. According to eyewitnesses, the three were on their way home from the burial of a relative when their vehicle was blocked by a black Subaru. Their assailants got out, bundled them into their vehicle and drove away.

Status: Juma and Athman were found the following day at around 10 pm along Nakuru Road, several kilometres away from where they were abducted. Zena Wanjiru is still missing. Juma and Athman are not willing to give information on what transpired, citing threats from their captors.

Jacinta Bwire and Willis Otieno

While heading to her house in Nairobi’s Muthaiga area, Jacinta’s car was blocked by her assailants. She was bundled out, together with her driver Willis Otieno, and taken to an unknown destination on October 29. Jacinta is the mother of ex-terror convict Elgiva Bwire.

Status: Jacinta and Otieno were released the following day and on October 31, respectively. The abduction was linked to Bwire, who was released from Kamiti Maximum Security Prison after serving 10 years. They have not spoken on the record about their experience.

Prof Hassan Nandwa and Elgiva Bwire, 28
Nandwa was abducted in Nairobi on October 28 this year when he went to report the disappearance of his client, ex-terror convict Bwire, who is yet to be found. Bwire went missing after he was freed on completion of his jail term. The Law Society of Kenya moved to court seeking orders for the production of the two within 24 hours. Days later, the Muslim scholar and lawyer was found in Kitui.

Status: The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) has since circulated a wanted person’s notice with Elgiva’s image on social media, terming him an armed and dangerous terrorist. There is a Sh10 million bounty on his head.

Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdiswamad, 55

Abdiswamad was abducted in Nairobi’s Central Business District on the morning of September 8 and forced into a waiting van. The Horn of Africa security analyst was released a day after protests from members of the Muslim community, who accused security agencies of rising cases of enforced disappearance.

Status: Abdiswamad refused to talk about his plight in the hands of his captors, only saying he was harshly warned against doing so, but promised to publish a book on his experience. 

Abdulhakim Sagar, 40

He was abducted on August 18 in Old Town, Lamu County, by unidentified men, blindfolded and bundled inside a waiting vehicle.

Status: The Mombasa-based businessman was abandoned in Voi the same day; the motive for his abduction has yet to be established. According to his family, he was given Sh2,000 for bus fare by his abductors.

Abdul Hafedh Zubeidi (left) with Wilson Hassan Nandwa (right) at the Milimani Law Courts. [Fidelis Kabunyi, Standard]

Yassir Mohamud Ahmed, 44

The Lamu County ambulance driver was abducted on June 19 by armed men who introduced themselves as police officers. They blocked his vehicle while he was in the company of his wife and son. In court documents, his wife, Yumna Ali Salim, said three armed men wearing balaclavas and security outfits alighted from a Land Cruiser with GK plates after they intercepted their vehicle a few kilometres from Mkunubi township, and abducted her husband. 

Status: The father of four is still missing. A Malindi court ordered the Inspector General of Police to produce Ahmed, dead or alive. The mention of the case was slotted for November 23 before being adjourned to March 17, 2022.  

Taimur Kariuki Hussein, 39

Hussein was arrested on June 11 in Lamu County and later arraigned in the Kahawa Law Courts on June 28. The court dropped all terror-related charges and ordered his release without conditions. However, 30 minutes later, Hussein went missing under unclear circumstances.

Status: The Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) said Hussein was released from custody in compliance with the court order. He reunited with his family last week, and is yet to speak out.

Bakari Mbwana Mwanyota, 38

Mwanyota was abducted on February 24 by armed men in police uniform who broke into his house in Ujamaa, Likoni. Eyewitnesses said there were two white foreigners among those who conducted the night raid. According to Mwanyota’s wife Sauda Omar, the men forced them to lie on the ground while they ransacked the house. She was later informed that her husband was under arrest and if she wanted to follow up, she should travel to Nairobi.

Status: Mwanyota is still missing. His family has filed a petition in a Mombasa court to get orders for the police to produce their kin, dead or alive.

Ali Abdallah Tengeza, 22, Juma Athman, 29, and Hamisi Mwinyi, 17

The three were abducted on February 16 by armed men believed to be law enforcement officers in Likoni. Tengeza and Athman were arrested in Kibundani, about 10 kilometres from Kiteje, while Mwinyi was picked up in a similar fashion from a different location.

Status: The bodies of Athman and Mwinyi were discovered at the Coast Provincial General Hospital morgue on February 22, with gunshot wounds to their chests and wide gashes in the back. In addition, Athman’s neck had been broken, his face swollen and covered in blood, and one eye gouged out. Tengeza is still missing.

Liban Abdullahi Omar

Omar was abducted by gunmen in a black Subaru hours after a Nairobi court acquitted him over the Westgate Mall terror attack and ordered his release. However, minutes after leaving ATPU offices with two family friends, his sister and an aunt, the taxi they had boarded was hijacked. The gunmen pointed a gun at the driver, dragged Omar out of the cab and into the Subaru, and sped off with the taxi’s key. 

Status: Omar is still missing. 

Foreigners arrested on Kenyan soil
Samson Teklemichael

Teklemichael, an Ethiopian national, was driving along Oloitoktok Road in Kileleshwa on November 19 when his vehicle, a Bentley Bentayga, was blocked. He managed to call his wife, Milen Mezgebo, to tell her what was happening before unidentified men forcefully dragged him out of his car. In videos, Teklemichael is seen asking passers-by to record his abduction, while a traffic police officer arrives on a motorcycle and helps his abductors get him into a waiting Subaru Forester.

Status: Teklemichael’s wife, through lawyer Cliff Ombeta, has filed a petition in court to compel the police to release her husband, who she said was in their custody.

Ahmed Golabi

Iranian national Ahmed Golabi and his wife Stella Waithera went missing on September 24. The two were expected to board a Turkish Airline flight to Iran and make an eight-hour stopover in Istanbul, Turkey, except they did not leave Nairobi. They were dropped off at JKIA by Waithera’s sister at around 1.30 am. The family contacted Turkish Airlines and the Iranian embassy in Nairobi, which confirmed that the two did not board their flight as scheduled.

Status: On September 29, the family was informed that Waithera and Golabi were arrested by ATPU officers. They were later released, with the police later saying Golabi was in the country to spy on Kenya’s relationship with Israel.

Bashir Mohammed

The Somali-American businessman went missing minutes after he left the Miale Lounge in Kilimani on May 13. Eyewitnesses said his Range Rover was blocked by his abductors and he tried to call his wife before the call was disconnected and the phone switched off.

Status: The shell of his burnt vehicle was later found in Kibiku, Ngong, and his mutilated body at the Kerugoya Level 5 Hospital. An autopsy showed he may have been tortured and strangled.

Selahaddin Gulen

Gulen was reported missing on May 3. He had gone to DCI headquarters to seek help from Interpol to clear his name over allegations that he was involved in crime in Turkey. A Turkish national who had accompanied Gulen to the DCI disappeared along with him but was later released by Kenyan authorities on May 5.

Status: Turkey released a statement on May 31 with a photo of Gulen in handcuffs in its capital Ankara, saying he had been captured by the country’s National Intelligence Organisation and was being held by anti-terrorism police officers.

Nnamdi Kanu

Biafra separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu disappeared from Kenya before reappearing in Abuja, Nigeria, in July. Kanu, a British-Nigerian citizen, is the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra who fled Nigeria in 2017 after he was released on bail after being charged with terrorism and incitement.

Status: Lawyers representing Kanu’s family accused the Nigerian government of ‘state kidnapping’, saying he was abducted by Nigerian officials in Kenya and renditioned to Nigeria against his will. Both Kenyan and Nigerian governments denied involvement in the kidnapping.

Dong Samuel Luak and Aggrey Idri Ezibon

South Sudanese lawyer Luak and writer Ezibon, both critics of their government, were kidnapped in Nairobi on the mornings of January 23 and 24, 2017, respectively. Dong was last seen at Dream Bean Restaurant while Ezibon left his Valley Arcade home for a morning run but did not come back.

Status: The two were extradited to Juba on January 27, 2017, and moved to Luri. It is reported that they were executed three days later. Documents filed in court accused several people holding key positions in South Sudan’s intelligence and defence dockets of being behind Dong and Ezibon’s kidnapping and execution.

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