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Two years later, families await soldiers’ release

PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA Corporal Evans Mutoro’s wife Sylvia Mutoro and her two-year-old daughter Hazel Mwejuma Mutoro at their home in Misikhu, Bungoma County, on July 4, 2013.
PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA Corporal Evans Mutoro’s wife Sylvia Mutoro and her two-year-old daughter Hazel Mwejuma Mutoro at their home in Misikhu, Bungoma County, on July 4, 2013.  NATION MEDIA GROUP

Sunday, July 07, 2013

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Even after nearly two years of waiting and undergoing unprecedented anguish and gloom, two families whose loved ones were abducted by Al-Shabaab insurgents are not about to give up hope for their return.

Two Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers — Sergeant Jonathan Kipkosgei Kangogo and Corporal Evans Mutoro — were taken away on July 24, 2011 while delivering food to famine-stricken families in a border town in North Eastern province.

Two weeks after the abductions, KDF troops entered Somalia to battle Al-Shabaab militants.

Although details of the events leading to the capture of Sergeant Kangogo and Corporal Mutoro are scarce, it is believed the truck they were travelling in came under gunfire from the militants after they defied an order to stop.

For the families of the two officers, it has been two years of agony, pain and psychological trauma as they anxiously wait for their release.

On that fateful Saturday morning Rose, Kangogo’s wife, says she talked to her husband shortly after they left Garissa town.

“Our conversation was interrupted by poor network, and he promised to call back later in the day. That was the last time I heard from him. When away on duty he would call regularly,” she said at their home in Kapteren, Elgeyo Marakwet County.

Before she retired to bed that evening her husband had not called.

She found this a bit strange and decided to call him but he could not be reached.

On Sunday morning, Rose prepared the family to go to church unaware that she would soon receive terrible news.

“We went to church, and I left my phone at home and was expecting to find some missed calls. After church there were none, and I knew something was wrong,” Rose said, fighting back tears.

After making calls to Kangogo’s friends at Kahawa Barracks she was told some soldiers had been attacked and kidnapped.

That was the beginning of the long wait for the return of her husband of nearly 20 years and the father of their three children, who she says are psychologically scarred and have been performing poorly in school.

Rose’s story is similar to that of Sylvia Mutoro, 23, the wife of Evans Mutoro. When the Sunday Nation team arrived at Misikhu village in Bungoma County on Thursday, the mother of one put on a brave face but broke down as the interview progressed.

Ms Mutoro said her husband called her on July 24, 2011 and asked if she had taken their four-month old baby Hazel to the clinic.

“I told him that her clinic date was due the following week and he sent me Sh5,000. He promised to call in the evening,” she said. When he did not call, she tried in vain for a week to reach her husband, convinced the issue was poor network coverage. But on the second week, she began to fear the worst.

“Though it frequently crossed my mind that something could have happened to him, I did not want to entertain that thought.”

She says KDF kept the news from her and only informed her father-in-law Christopher Mutoro. Mzee Mutoro, 75, said he was called to his son’s work station where he was informed of the abduction.

“It was almost three weeks after he was captured. With my advancing age it was like sending me to the grave early. I was also told to deliver the news to the wife,” he said.

The KDF says it will not negotiate with the captors, and if the men do not return in the next four years, they will be considered missing in action.

In January last year, Edward Yesse Mule, a DO in Burderi, Wajir South, was captured together with registration officer Fredrick Wainaina.

A video posted earlier this year by the militants shows Mr Mule pleading on behalf of the six hostages for their release.

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