A mother’s tearful appeal to find her son
“This issue has affected me mentally. As a family, we can’t sleep. We can’t do anything else. Every time we are on alert. When a car approaches even in the middle of the night, we think that’s Mwenda being brought back. We are always awake,” said Jane Gatwiri, the mother of renowned security consultant Mwenda Mbijiwe, who was abducted June 12, 2021.
Gatwiri, for the umpteenth time, faced media cameras at her home in Meru County on Saturday, October 1. Again, tears rolling down her cheeks. Her pain palpable. Her despair pitiful.
Another new month was just beginning. But unlike other people’s joy at the prospects of fresh possibilities ahead, the dark cloud hanging over Gatwiri’s homestead only grows thicker.
“My son is missing for 15 months and 18 days by today,” she told journalists.
The message hit home. Just as it did all the previous times she faced the media.
But to date, Mbijiwe not only remains missing, but Kenya’s security agencies have also opted to remain silent on their progress in his search.
June 12, 2021, the date of Mbijiwe’s disappearance, was the same day he was reportedly scheduled to travel to Meru driving hired car.
The journey that would normally take five hours or less, never ended for Mbijiwe, a former Kenya Defence Forces soldier and governor aspirant. He neither arrived home nor informed his family members of his whereabouts. And thus started the search.
The next day, the car he was driving was discovered in a coffee plantation near Tatu City in Kiambu County. This all but confirmed his family and friends fears; their son and friend had been abducted.
Mbijiwe’s family reported the matter to the police, hoping for a quick operation to find and return him to them, but it has been 15 painful months without progress.
“There’s no sleep. For me especially, I have had sleepless nights until it’s now affecting me. I have medical conditions that I didn’t have before, like hypertension,” Gatwiri said.
Each day passes with unwanted uncertainty for her, but her resolve remains steadfast.
At a media briefing in September, Gatwiri told journalists she was sure her son was still alive, and so the search should continue in earnest.
In many other media briefings, she sent out the same message to security agencies; “please find my son.”
Helping her, Mbijiwe’s brother has also directed all his energies and resources in the efforts to find their kin.
Nicholas Bundi is best remembered for making the long trek earlier this year to draw media attention to the fading search for Mbijiwe.
That walk reignited public talk on Mbijiwe’s disappearance, but sadly, nothing has been forthcoming so far.
Flanking Gatwiri in her latest media appearance, several relatives also voiced their concerns over the continued disappearance of Mbijiwe.
But this time, they are hanging on to hope renewed over the last three weeks.
The family claims that Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua made a promise during his campaigns to ensure Mbijiwe is found and returned home.
All they want from the second-in-command is that he fulfills that promise.
“Our able Deputy President said that Mwenda is being held by very powerful people, of which they don’t have that capacity or ability to reach them. Now, they are in power, and we are going to reach to them,” a relative said.
“He should please remember that he promised us that during the campaigns. That when they get into government, they will rescue Mwenda from wherever he is and bring him to us. We want to remind him, knowing him as a person who keeps his promises,” another added.
Alongside friends and family, human rights organizations and individual defenders have amplified this call for months on end.
Here again, Missing Voices stands in solidarity with Gatwiri and her family.
We call for expedited action geared towards locating Mbijiwe, and the prosecution of all persons behind his disappearance. We hope the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, the National Police Service and all other relevant agencies can help find him.
We also urge the new administration to deliver on its promise of eradicating enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.