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Lure of Quick Riches Abroad Leaves Families in Anguish

Posted by Administrator on October 23, 2011

Esther Wanjiru, the mother of Jackline Njeri, who was serving a three-year sentence in Brazil over drug trafficking, with grandson, David Kariuki

Esther Wanjiru, the mother of Jackline Njeri, who was serving a three-year sentence in Brazil over drug trafficking, with grandson, David Kariuki

It is exactly midday and our short trip to the heart of Kiamaiko ward in Nairobi’s Huruma estate is turning out to be a turbulent one.

Being a holiday, a sea of humanity jams the narrow access road to the estate and our driver has to be careful not to knock down any of the myriad barefoot children who wouldn’t give way despite the incessant hooting.

Our arrival at Ghetto is met with a ghostly hush only occasionally broken by a tot’s chuckle, or bawl. Members of the neighbourhood have congregated on an open space sandwiched by old residential flats. If events had turned out differently, they would be celebrating a reunion with a long lost relative or neighbour.

This rare gathering is as a result of the mysterious death of Jacqueline Njeri in a Brazilian prison days before completing her three-year jail sentence. She had been convicted of drug trafficking.

Yet, their agony is not just about the demise, or their inability to fly the 35-year-old’s remains home. Everyone here has a relative, a neighbour or a friend currently languishing in jail abroad after being tricked into joining an international drug trafficking syndicate that has been targeting desperate girls in the vicinity with the promise of overnight riches. While some of the convicts have escaped with a penalty as lenient as a two-year jail term, others have not been lucky, with some said to serving cumulative terms of up to 150 years.

Within a radius of just 20m from this sombre gathering, four families are enduring this doom.

Dozens of other families, we learn, are suffering similar fate in the larger Huruma.

When we finally enter the deceased’s house and the silence is broken, her mother, Esther Wanjiru is inconsolable. She explains that she learnt of her daughter’s death on September 10. This was through her daughter’s fellow convicts at the Sao Paulo Prison and not the Kenyan or Brazilian embassies.

The charcoal dealer says Njeri’s woes started back in 2009 when she told her family that a stranger had promised her employment abroad.

The next time they heard of her, it was through media reports indicating that she had been charged with drug trafficking in Brazil and jailed for three years.

“We were later to reach her in prison and she informed us that she was found in possession of heroin, which she says was planted in her travelling case by her boss. She was to be released and deported this month,” Wanjiru explains.

While emotions and a sense of loss visibly shows on the faces of the deceased’s teary childhood friends, it is cruelly ironical that her son, three year-old David Kariuki, clings to his toy oblivious of the fact that he is an orphan at infancy.

A stone throw away from Njeri’s dwelling, we meet Margaret Muthoni, a vegetable vendor who looks disturbed as she calls to mind how a promise of riches she was instinctively cynical about left her poorer, and haunts her with every eyewink.

The 50-year-old recounts how she had to sell household items to ensure that her daughter, Mary Mukami, enjoyed her short trip abroad, only to learn that she had been incarcerated shortly after departure.

Seated on a bed in her rusty one-room abode, Muthoni recalls that Mukami, a 35-year-old mother of three, came home jovial one evening in February 2008 and informed her that she, alongside a neighbouring cum childhood friend, were to fly out for a three-week business trip.

The trip, she explained, had been organised and paid for by a middle-aged woman they had met in Nairobi and would involve the selling of curios and jewellery.

Borrowed Sh10,000

Muthoni says after thoroughly quizzing her daughter about the nature of the trip, she half-heartedly gave her the green light to fly out.

“She then said she required some new clothes and a briefcase, but I didn’t have the cash. Her grandmother borrowed Sh10,000 from a women’s group while I sold my wall unit, dining table and television set and further dug into my savings to raise Sh22, 000.

We gave her Shs30, 000,” Muthoni recalls amid sobs.

Mukami flew out on February 14, 2008, and her mother says she did not even escort her to the airport since she felt disturbed by her departure.

“She called two days later and said they had arrived in Hong Kong safely. But I started fearing for the worst after she went silent for the next three weeks – a week past her planned return date,” she says.

It is then that Njeri, Mukami’s mate who died in a Brazilian jail last month, advised her that they go to the immigration department to inquire about her daughter’s status.

“At the immigration department, I almost suffered a heart attack when we were informed that Mukami and her friend had been detained at the Hong Kong customs department. To me, this bordered on fiction,” she says.

And reality was to sink after immigration official facilitated a phone conversation for mother and daughter.

“Mukami informed me that they travelled via India, where they were locked in a hotel room shortly after arrival and ordered to swallow heroin tablets at gun point. She said the drugs were destined for Guangzhou, China, but they were arrested while riding in a bus and that she fell ill after the drugs burst internally, prompting surgical removal,” Muthoni narrates.

Muthoni and her daughter were not to hear from each other for the next 18 months until some nuns from Kiamaiko visited Kenyans jailed in Hong Kong and stumbled upon Mukami, who gave them a letter to bring to her family.

Jailed in Hong Kong

“She informed us that she had been jailed for five years since it was her first visit to Hong Kong and that she would be released in 2014. We have since been communicating with my daughter via letters,” reveals Muthoni. She now takes care of her four grandchildren.

Moments after we bid Muthoni goodbye, we are directed to Rodgers Okwemba, 19, who is busy attending to customers at a herbal medicine kiosk.

Like the rest, the quest to escape from the jaws of poverty saw his mother, Ms Mary Adhiambo Apollo; fall in the hands of drug barons in 2006.

Okwemba says their mother left him, his three siblings and their father in Mombasa, telling them that she was going on a business trip with a friend.

While her friend was lucky enough to return to Kenya, Adhiambo, 40, was taken into custody immediately she landed in Hong Kong. After a gruelling court battle, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

“I don’t know when she’ll come back,” says Okwemba, 19, who looks traumatised by her mother’s plight. With no official communication from the Government (they learnt of her arrest and imprisonment through the media), they are yet to know the drug she was allegedly peddling or the veracity of the charges against her, he says. The youngster now lives with his grandmother while his siblings live with the father.

Once through with Okwemba, we manoeuvre our way past some winding alley and are directed into a homestead made of old iron sheets just metres away.

Double tragedy

Here, we find David Kairu showering using a hose connected from a nearby tap and placed atop the bathroom, while his younger sister Grace Wangari prepares lunch.

As orphans, theirs was a double blow when their sole breadwinner Ann Wambui, 28, was locked up in a foreign land, leaving them with two children to nurse.

Before she left for Hong Kong in 2008, Wambui had just lost her husband who was allegedly shot dead by police officers in a case of mistaken identity. Wambui had been left to fend for her four siblings and two offspring.

“As she left, she had high hopes that she would strike it rich in Asia to assist us,” Kairu pensively recalls.

Wambui, popularly known as Macarena, is the childhood friend who travelled alongside Mukami. ‘A female friend’ operating from Nairobi’s central business district had processed their passports, visas, and flight tickets.

Like Mukami, Wambui’s visa indicated that she was to go to India then Hong Kong before proceeding to China. But upon reaching India, they were forced to swallow the drugs and later arrested in Hong Kong.

It was at this point that she made a call to her family and informed them of what had happened.

“She said she was in hospital because the drugs had burst in her stomach for exceeding the period,” recalls Wangari. Wambui was sentenced to serve eight years at the Tai Lam Centre for Women. She got a heavier sentence than her neighbour since her passport indicated that she had previously travelled to the same country three other times.

Source: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/politics/InsidePage.php?id=2000045419&cid=4


9 Responses to “Lure of Quick Riches Abroad Leaves Families in Anguish”

  1. job said

    Kweli, the lure of quick wealth itamaliza waKenya. If the deal is too good to be true, it probably is. Pliz dnt fall to such scams, be patient, your blessing which has no strings attarched will come in due season. Kwani ulipoteza imani kwa yule aliye kuumba? He alone gives wealth increase withut a sting.

  2. Kangemi said

    The lure of riches has reached epidemic levels in Kenya. Very few rich people can claim to have made vast amounts of wealth honestly. A guy who used to sell wares door to door in my old neighborhood moved to Runda within two years of quitting his former trade. He claims to have made the wealth by accessing government hospital tenders. He also owns a couple of expensive pieces of real estate and high end pubs. He is definitely the envy of thousands in my old neighborhood. Unfortunately, his rags to riches story does not hold water and I can see many young men trying to emulate him especially when he shows up in his sh8million Range Rover in our old dusty neighborhood.

  3. Hannah said

    Her grandmother borrowed Sh10,000 from a women’s group while I sold my wall unit, dining table and television set and further dug into my savings to raise Sh22, 000.
    Wow, the troubles and lenghts parents will go to for the love of their kids and their damned future. Poleni sana!

  4. Skinny said

    Two words. Desparation and Greed.

  5. Skinny said

    It goes on all across our beloved continent. People need to feed their families by any means necessary. Then there are those who are blinded by riches and are willing to do anything to get it.

  6. Kangemi said

    Word has it that the likes of Nicholas Biwott will not eat in any restaurants in Kenya unless it’s a buffet. Also, he normally orders 6 beers and picks one randomly to be opened in his presence, just in case. What an awful way to live which is simply not worth it…

    • Biwott Nicholas said

      Get a life Kangemi!! What does Biwott have to do with this? Like there are no Kiuks who have not stollen from kenyans.

      • Kangemi said

        Chill out brother….touched a raw nerve, huh? What makes you think I am a Kyuk?…Biwott, Ongeri, Musyoka, Mwakwere, Jirongo, Kenyatta, Kajwang, Ruto…what’s the difference? They have all looted the country while the likes of YOU falls for the old crap of “my tribe” is getting finished. I hope you are at least getting a share of Biwott’s loot.

  7. Johana Wanjikru Thuku said

    It’s no longer the kyuks, the kambas, kaleos and name the rest,the world has become a small global village and the greed barriers of becoming rich has been broken by all tribes and all races of the world. It’s live, I live and God for us all. As a world traveller, I have encountered all Kenyans tribes everywhere and almost in equal proportion therefore hang it up and know their no boundaries and no exceptions no matter the issue , all Kenyans are out there hassling and searching for the piece of pie everyone is after……..Lakini wazazi wanafaa kufikiria sana kwenye wanatuma watoto, is it worth selling your land, if you ask me it’s not worth a dime to send a kid to any country in middle east. This kenyan young adults find themselves in the middle of shit in middle east and this is a well known story from those days of tene…. haikuanza saa hii. And when we talk of slaverly, in middle east wasichana wanakua sodomised na hawajazoea maneno kama hayo…. na huu ni ukweli tupu.

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