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Families in plea over Kenyans held in Somalia

By Jane Mugambi | May 3rd 2020

Families of seven Kenyans held at Raskiamboni in Somalia are calling for government intervention to have them freed and brought back home.

The seven had been contracted to work on the Kenya-Somalia border wall in January this year.

Muslims for Human Rights lobby (Muhuri) has written to Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia to intervene, accusing the government of having a hand in their detention. 

In a letter, Muhuri chairman Khelef Khalifa said the seven left Kenya for a welding job in Kismayo, Somalia on January. They completed the job on March 31, and started their journey back home on April 5 only to be stopped at Raskiamboni where they were detained. Khalifa claimed security agents in Raskiamboni took their travel documents, including identification cards making it hard for them to travel.

“Without their identification documents, they can barely do anything. At the Coast region if one does not have an ID, he or she is seen as a criminal. How does the government expect them to operate if at all they have been denied access to Kenya?” posed Khalifa.

After they reached out to the County Commissioner, the administrator said the border had been temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Since then, 14 days which are the mandatory isolation period are over, The government needs to revisit the issue and grant them access back home,” Khalifa added. He claimed the seven had exhausted the money had earned and are now are now sleeping in the streets.

Their predicament

“Their families are suffering and are now appealing the County Commissioner to help them get back home. If it means placing them in quarantine once more, that will be fine as long as their families are aware where they are,” Khalifa added. 

The seven are Patrick Shinula Mwangala, Martin Mwaghazi, Ignas Kialu Mwanyumba, Michael Mjala, Gabriel Otieno, Elia Mwalili and Abas Mutuku.

Kialu is said to have called his family on Friday informing them of their predicament.

Ms Purity Moraa, who spoke on phone from Kilifi, said her husband is among the seven. She said the last they spoke, he had said all of them tested negative for Covid-19 but were yet to be given back their documents to travel home.

Moraa said her husband told her they had exhausted all the money as they were put in a guest house at their own cost.

“When I called my husband, he told me they had spent to the last coin and are now risking being thrown out of the guest house. I am a teacher and we haven’t been at work for the last two months since schools were closed so I can’t help him out financially. When we talked to County Commissioner, he said the border is closed for now,” she added.

Moraa, who has a seven-month-old baby, is calling on the government to intervene and bring her husband back home. 

“It has been hard. We were thrown out of our rented house for non-payment," she said. Reached out for a comment, Macharia said they were deliberating on the issue. He described the matter as sensitive.

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