Have you seen my children?

INSET: Dorothy’s children, Cynthia and Brian, in a photo taken before they disappeared. Eight years ago, Dorothy’s children were taken away without her consent, and hasn’t been heard of since. PHOTO |  Tom Otieno
INSET: Dorothy’s children, Cynthia and Brian, in a photo taken before they disappeared. Eight years ago, Dorothy’s children were taken away without her consent, and hasn’t been heard of since. PHOTO | Tom Otieno
Nation By PAUL OGEMBA pogemba@ke.nationmedia.comPosted Tuesday, March 1 2011 at 18:00

IN SUMMARY

  • She came home one day, eight years ago, only to find that her two children had disappeared.

 

Eight years ago, someone she trusted stole her children, left the country, and has not been heard of since then.

It has been an agonising eight long years for 38 year old Dorothy Andeyo Ayuma, who has never had a fitful night since her children disappeared. Not a day goes by without this mother thinking about her children, and wondering how they are – or whether they are even alive.

That dark day when she arrived home to find an empty house is still clearly etched in her mind, and often replays itself with unforgiving clarity whenever she finds herself alone.

It was in May 2003. Dorothy was working with a mining company in Tanzania, and had left her twin children, Brian and Cynthia Marabu, then 11 years, in the care of her mother-in-law, Josephine Ablandina Miura.

Her mother-in-law comes from Switzerland, but had married a Kenyan, and settled down in Malindi, where she had lived for many years.

“This was my second year in Tanzania, and I was due to visit my children in June. However, sometime in May, someone told me that my mother-in-law had already flown out of the country with my children,” Dorothy explains.

Alarmed at the news, she took the next bus to Kenya to verify for herself whether this was indeed true. It was.

“I nearly went mad. I was confused, I was in so much pain, I did not even know where to begin,” she says, trying to contain her tears of sadness.

Falling in love

The only girl in a family of five, Dorothy was brought up in Nairobi, where her parents worked, although their rural home is in Luanda, Western Kenya.

She met the father of her children, Karisa Marabu, in 1987, at Mundia Mixed High School in Thika, where they were both form four students. Karisa was 19 years, while Dorothy was 17.

“Karisa was so charming, masculine, handsome, and humorous. I couldn’t resist him, and agreed to be his girlfriend,” Dorothy says of her late husband.

After high school, Dorothy says she joined Premier College, in Nairobi, where she studied secretarial courses, telephone operations and French for two years. In 1990, after a three-year courtship, the couple married under customary law.

“After Karisa paid dowry to my parents, we moved to Malindi, where I got a job in one of the hotels as a receptionist,” she explains.

Karisa’s mother, Josephine, had a big house in Malindi, which they moved into.

“She was a good mother-in-law and we got along well. She treated me like her own child and complimented me in everything I did. She was loving, caring, and understanding.”

Her mother-in-law was well-to-do, and owned some businesses in Malindi, but occasionally travelled to her homeland in Switzerland.

In 1992, Dorothy and Karisa were blessed with twins, a boy they named Brian Marabu and a girl, Cynthia Marabu.

“After we got married, I yearned for a child, therefore giving birth to twins was a great joy. I still remember how it felt to hold them in my arms for the first time – the warmth, relief and satisfaction I experienced was indescribable. I have never felt such elation,” she recalls.

When she talks about her children, the pain in her voice is evident. Occassionally, she sighs, and at that moment, you can tell that she’s forgotten that we’re there.

As fate would have it, the young couple did not enjoy life together for a long time. Even the wedding they had planned in 1994 to cement their marriage did not come to pass.

“It happened so fast. In December 1993, Karisa and a cousin of his were involved in an accident as they were travelling to Mombasa from Malindi. He was badly injured, and was rushed to hospital. Despite efforts by doctors to save him, he died, due to what doctors later explained was a brain fracture,” says Dorothy.

Left to bring up two young children, she decided to continue staying with her mother-in-law, because they comforted each other and she assisted in taking care of the twins.

“After my husband’s death, my mother-in-law continued to treat me well. In her, I had someone to share my grief with and a shoulder to lean on,” she explains

However, their perfect relationship changed a year later. Dorothy say that Josephine started mistreating her. Not a day went by without a quarrel coming between them.

“She would accuse me of being a burden to her, and abuse me, irrespective of who was around, even though I did everything for my children, and did not ask her for assistance. I paid their school fees, bought them clothes, gifts and anything they wanted,” she says, adding that she only took care of them when Dorothy was at work.

She says that the love she still felt for her late husband would not allow her to remarry, even though she was still young. Instead, she threw all her energy into taking care of her children.

Dorothy continued working at the Hotel until 2001, when she got better paying job in Tanzania, in a mining company.

“I left my children under the care of my mother-in-law and brother-in-law, because I did not want to disrupt their learning. I would send money every month for their upkeep and took leave twice a year to be with them,” she explains.

In spite of her strained relationship with her mother-in-law, Dorothy says that she would never have imagined her taking her children away without her consent.

“When I came to visit the children in December 2002, she asked me whether she could take them on holiday in Switzerland. I did not object, reasoning that it would be an enjoyable experience for them. We agreed that they would travel when I come for my next visit in June 2003,” she explains.

Empty house

Dorothy says she knew something was amiss when in May that year, she received information that Josephine had already travelled to Switzerland with her children.

“I returned immediately after receiving the news, but found an empty house. She left without informing me, not even my father-in-law knew when and how they left,” she narrates.

Her father-in-law, Samuel Marabu, had divorced Josephine, and remarried. He could not help, since he had not visited his former wife’s home or even bothered to find out where she came from.

“I felt helpless. I didn’t know what to do or how to begin the search for my children. I thought of following them to Switzerland, but where would I even begin?”

She sought help from friends and lawyers, but they told her they could not handle the case since there was little to go with. They advised her to wait until the children turn eighteen, consoling her that they would come back.

“People advised me to be patient, that my children had gone on holiday and would return. I waited and prayed, but it has been eight years now, yet they haven’t come back.”

Her despair and depression led to a stroke in July 2010, resulting in a paralysis of her left side. The stroke also blurred her speech. She is on the road to recovery, but has to take medication daily.

“The thought of life without my children is unbearable. My despair is so immense, it breaks me each time I open the family album to look at my children’s pictures,” she says.

She misses them so much, the album is a permanent fixture in her handbag. She cannot go anywhere without it.

“Cynthia was the brightest of the twins. In class, she was either position one or two. She resembled me so much, and reminded me of myself when I was younger. Brian resembled his father,” Dorothy recalls.

Brian was the playful one, and enjoyed experimenting with new things. He was also very inquisitive and demanded answers to all his questions.

“He was very outgoing child, and was comfortable being around people, unlike his sister, who was reserved, quiet and preferred being with either me or her grandmother,” she adds.

Even though her twin children were not identical, she says that they loved each other and enjoyed one another’s company.

Dorothy gave up her job in Tanzania soon after her children’s disappearance because she could no longer focus on her work.

Sad memories

When she returned to Malindi, she set up small businesses to occupy her mind, but the sight of the empty house she once lived in with her children made life harder. She could no longer bear it, and moved out.

“All my efforts to reach my mother-in-law have been futile. She was like a mystery in Malindi. Even her friends say they did not know which part of Switzerland she came from.”

She says that only her husband’s brother, Jan Kenga, had been to their mother’s homeland, but he too left the country in 2003.

Dorothy finally returned to her rural home in Luanda in 2007, before moving to Kisumu where she operates a clothing store.

Malindi had too many sad memories which she could no longer withstand.

What she wants and prays for everyday is to get her children back. Above all, she wants to know that they are alive and well.

“They are 19 now. Why doesn’t she return them to me? For eight years, I have not seen them, or heard from them, and it’s killing me slowly.”

She is now pleading with the Ministry of foreign affairs and the Swiss embassy to help her trace her children.

“I cannot afford to go to Switzerland. Even if I were to go, where will I begin the search?” posed Dorothy.

“My days are sad; life is not the same and I can no longer pretend to live a normal life. I keep thinking about my children, the thought of them saps the strength out of me,” a distraught Dorothy says.

“I long to be with my children, to hold them, and to let them know that I have never stopped loving them and that I think about them every day.”

Brian and Cynthia, if you’re reading this, your mother wants you to know that her greatest joy would be to hold you in her arms again.

 

 

 

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