Disappeared without a trace
By The Star
Aug 31, 2022
On Thursday last week, Samuel Kamau left the house to go to work in Dandora, but while there, he was picked by plain clothed police officers.
Seven days later, Samuel is yet to be found and the family’s frantic search” in police stations, hospitals and morgues, has borne no fruits.
“The police insist that they did not arrest him though the witnesses who saw the vehicle which was used to pick him up and alerted me, recognize it as the same used at Kayole police station,” his mother said.
“We have gone to morgues, ICU s, police stations but did not find him or his body. I plan to go to Ruai, just to check if he was dumped in the sewerage treatment plant there,” she added.
But Samuel is just one of the 69 people who have been disappeared in the country in the past three years, according to data by Missing Voices Coalition.
As the group led the country in marking the International Day for Victims of Enforced Disappearances on August 30, victims recounted the last moments with their loved ones before they went missing and their hope and desperation in finding them, dead or alive.
Every day, Anne Njeri hopes that her husband will knock on the door and announce his return. When she steps out, she searches frantically among strangers for the face of her husband who went missing in April 24, 2020.
However, after two years and four months of waiting, the dreamt is but a mirage, slowly fading away as she deals with threats from authorities asking her to quit the search.
Michael Njau, an activist at the Kiamaiko Social Justice Centre went missing en route to Thika alongside his cousin Adan Mohammed and taxi driver Samuel Mungai.
“An officer from the DCI told me to stop looking because he had heard that I would disappear too if I kept digging deep. He said my husband received a disturbing call with two choices, to give up himself or his family,” she told the crowd.
A week after he disappeared, police only found the taxi they were using and a jacket in Githurai 45. The car, grey silver Toyota Ractis, is at the Githurai Police Station.
“They could have brought us his body so we can bury and know that he is lost forever. It is better than waiting every day for him to come back, looking for his face among strangers,” she said.
“Many nights, I see him walk into the door and tell me that he is back, but when the sun rises, I realize it was just a dream.”
The mother of three said Njau, who was living apart, called her the previous night to tell her he loved her something that he never did before.
“On the day he went missing, he spoke to me and the children and told us that he would be traveling back from Thika where had gone with his cousin the very day,” Njeri recounted.
“From around 4pm, I tried calling many times but his phone has been switched off. At night, I included him in the dinner plans but he did not show up,” she continued.
At around 9pm, Njeri realized that no one knew Njau’s whereabouts after his other cousin called to find out if he had been seen. The search only led the family to Githurai Police station where the car they were traveling in was found.
“It has been very hard on my children, especially my last born daughter. She always reminds me that there is a voice missing in my house,” Njeri said tearfully.
“I am forced to lie to her that her dad traveled for work very far and that he will return whenever she asks where her father is. She wants him to bring her a bicycle when he returns,” she narrated.
Though his two older sons understood what happened to their father, but the gap remains. They still hope one day he will return.
“The second born son grades continue to deteriorate and though I recruit tutors to bring him back to where he used to be. He is always quiet and disturbed. I miss him so much,”Njeri noted.
Missing Voices recorded 10 cases on enforced disappearances in 2019, 22 in 2020 and 36 in 2021 in a worrying upward trend. Most of the cases were reported in Mombasa followed by Nairobi counties.
Houghton Irungu, Amnesty Kenya Director, said authorities often use enforced disappearances to instill fear in the community and scare them from demanding their rights.
“The purpose of enforced disappearances is not always to end the lives of the victims. It is properly orchestrated at silencing the community,” said Irungu.
Craig Omore, a lawyer, said the country lacks a law that criminalizes enforced disappearances making it very difficult to prosecute such cases.
“The closest is a habeas corpus on articles 25 which demands for a person in custody to be produced dead or alive. An enforced disappearance is not in law in our country,” he said.