Foreign Affairs and Children’s Department officials with baby Marua Munene at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi on February 21, 2014.
A Kenyan baby stolen from its mother just four days after birth returned to the country on Friday after a South Sudanese court ordered that he be brought back.
The boy, who was in the company of the Children’s Department and Kenya Mission in South Sudan officials, remained playful, at one point grabbing a journalist’s microphone, but his parents are yet to be identified.
The boy will be staying at a children’s home in the meantime.
The baby had been in the custody of the Kenyan embassy for four months, before he was finally flown in.
His story begun on September 30 when a woman in her 40s boarded a Simba Coach bus destined for Juba in Nairobi.
The woman, who has since been jailed for child abduction, boarded the bus after claiming that she was the real mother of the child.
But in a journey that takes more than 20 hours, the cat was always going to get out of the bag.
While the abductor managed to pass through the Kenya-Uganda border, she was not lucky after crossing into South Sudan.
The baby started crying and the other passengers got concerned because the mother was neither breastfeeding nor soothing it.
NOTIFIED THE POLICE
The following day at the Namule border point in South Sudan, the passengers notified police who questioned the woman.
“She initially said she was the mother, but later changed the story saying she had only been given the baby to bring it to South Sudan. Through the South Sudanese authorities, we arrested two other women, one from Kenya and another from South Sudan,” Mr Lawrence Chemonges, the Foreign Affairs Senior Assistant Secretary for Diaspora Service, told reporters.
The ministry had been notified of the incident in October, but relied on South Sudanese authorities to trace the woman’s movements. It appears her phone records helped.
“The passengers in the bus had suspected that the child is stolen because the baby had been crying all the way from Nairobi and she was not breastfeeding him,” a dispatch from the Kenyan Embassy in Juba describes how the Mission got wind of the theft.
One Kenyan woman on the bus, who had talked to the abductor, later called the Mission in Juba to report the incident.
According to the report, when they asked her why she was neither cuddling nor breastfeeding the baby, she told them she had just adopted it.
It is a curious incident given that normally, an adult travelling in the company of a minor across the borders must declare the identity of the child.
The Foreign Affairs ministry could not determine whether she had declared her details at the Kenyan border.
Border officials later demanded that her breasts be checked to determine if she had breastfed at all. It is after this that they updated their national security agencies in Juba.
The mission further updated Nairobi that the suspect, only identified as Hellen Syokau, had initially indicated that she was from Tanzania before her identification documents betrayed her.
“She informed the passengers that she was from Tanzania but upon producing her documents, they found out that she is from Kenya, Eastern Province and Kamba by tribe,” it stated.
The baby now identified as Marua Munene alias Baby Lucky Juba, though his real name is yet to be known, was returned to Nairobi by Kenyan Foreign Affairs officials following a court order in Juba that the baby be brought back.
According to the embassy, the baby’s three would-be abductors have since been jailed, with the Kenyan getting a year behind bars for abduction and trafficking.
The ministry declined to identify the other Kenyan woman and her south Sudanese accomplice, saying, further investigations were going on.
“We still don’t know the baby’s parents because there were no identification or birth certificate on the woman. We managed to trace other suspects using the woman’s previous telephone calls and she later admitted to have stolen the baby in Kenya,” Mr John Mariera, the secretary in the Kenyan mission in Juba said.
Foreign Affairs could not name the children’s home the baby will be taken to, but has asked anyone who lost a baby of this age to report the matter to the police or contact the ministry urgently.