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Mother and son reunite in Nandi after 24 years

RIFT VALLEY
By Rael Jelimo | June 28th 2016
Kariuki Njogu is received by his mother Salina Cheptum at Ainapng'etuny village in Nandi County. The son and mother were separated due to tribal clashes in 1992. PHOTO: KEVIN TUNOI

KENYA: Tears of joy flowed freely as a 48-year-old woman from Nandi County reunited with her son after 24 years.

It all started during the 1992 General Election when Selina Cheptum says she was kicked out by her husband Kariuki Njogo from Kianjogu village in Nyeri County due to the ensuing ethnic clashes.

Cheptum from Ainabng’etuny village in Tinderet Constituency says Njogu began to hate her after witnessing how certain communities in the Rift Valley, including his own, were targeted during the violence.

“The tribal clashes strained our relationship and we later separated,” Cheptum said, noting she was forced to leave behind her three children.

She had not seen her children since then. And two weeks ago, Cheptum turned to Standard Media Group in a desperate search for her children she last saw in 1992.

Her first born son, James Kariuki Njogu, now 30, was able to trace her in Tinderet on Saturday after Cheptum’s story was aired on KTN.

Mother and son wept uncontrollably as they hugged. Villagers also thronged Cheptum’s home as she welcomed a son she last saw when he was only six.

Cheptum who lived in Nairobi’s Umoja Estate says she had to escape after her husband became hostile towards her and even threatened her.

And on Saturday, Kariuki travelled hundred of kilometres from Thika, Kiambu County, to meet his mother after many years. His grandmother Jane Sang, 70, could not also believe her eyes.

“My sister called to inform me she had seen our mother on KTN during the 7 o’clock news bulletin looking for us,” he said.

Kariuki added: “I couldn’t believe it. We had been looking for our mother for many years. We had been unable to find her because her family moved from their previous home in Kitale when she just disappeared.”

With the blessings of their father, Cheptum’s children set out to trace her. Kariuki was the one charged with the responsibility of travelling to Tinderet to trace their mother because his siblings are far. His sister Mary Watare Njogu, now 28, is married in Mombasa while their last born, Kariuki Njogu Kipchumba,25, works abroad.

“Kipchumba almost took a flight back home. He says he has been playing the KTN clip and cannot wait to re-unite with our mother. It is difficult for a child to grow up without a mother’s love,” says Kariuki, who was given a hero’s welcome as he was served with locally prepared milk, mursik.

“We have not slept the entire night as curious neighbours flooded my home to help me welcome my long lost son,” says Cheptum.

Both mother and son regret the events that led to the disintegration of their family in 1992 and emphasised the need for tribes to tolerate each other and co-exist peacefully.

Cheptum said her once loving and caring husband suddenly turned hateful, hostile and cruel towards her before he finally kicked her out.

The first multi-party elections on December 29, 1992, were marred by ethnic violence in parts of the Rift Valley.

Cheptum says Njogu started hating her after watching on television, how members of certain communities were suffering. That is when he started hating her.

 “I begged him not to blame me over the violence. I even reminded him how we had lived together happily for many years despite the fact that we came from different communities but this did little to save our marriage. It was painful for me,” says Cheptum.

“One day, my husband came home and he was very furious. He ordered me to go back to my people. He did not allow me to go with the children or anything.”

Cheptum met Njogu in 1981 while visiting a relative in Lodwar. She was only 14 then.

Fell in love

Her mother, Chepchumba, says her daughter fell in love with Njogu and even eloped after they tried to stop their relationship.

Later, the two lovebirds got married in a civil union at a court in Kibera, Nairobi, in 1985. They got their first born in 1986.

But during the re-union, Kariuki defended his father saying other factors contributed to his actions.

“I am not defending what my father did but there were other issues. However, let me state that may father is a changed man now and he actually gave us his blessings when we set out to look for our mother,” said Kariuki.

He added: “My father worked hard to give us a good life and only remarried after we were all grown up. I regret having grown up without my mother. I always missed the affection, care and the love only a mother can give.”

For now, Cheptum says she is happy to be re-united with her children. She also said she had forgiven her former husband for forcing her out.

“My biggest dream was to see my children again in my lifetime and that is what matters,” she said as tears rolled down her cheeks.

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