KENYA: Man’s two-year ordeal under Al-Shabaab gang

Daniel Njuguna Wanyoike (28 years) during the interview at his Gichagi-ini village in Muranga April 15 2014. Photo/PHOEBE OKALL
Daniel Njuguna Wanyoike (28 years) during the interview at his Gichagi-ini village in Muranga April 15 2014. Photo/PHOEBE OKALL

Daniel Njuguna Wanyoike, 28, is a broken man.

After two years as a hostage of Al-Shabaab, the father of one cannot look you in the face. Drooping shoulders, downward gaze and the hands clutched between his knees tell of a man emotionally disturbed.

He was kidnapped on October 5, 2011, by the terrorist group, Al-Shabaab, inside Somalia as he delivered medicine.

Even six days after his rescue, he has difficulty talking about the cruelty of captivity where he and his fellow hostage expected to be killed any time by their captors.

He has been in captivity for two-and-half years and along the way, he converted to Islam and took the name Abdurahman in order to survive.

Basics like food were an issue; he was sustained by two meals of pasta every day. “My mind is numb, the pain is still strong,” he told the Nation Tuesday.

Throughout the interview, he sat pensive, his head bowed, avoiding eye contact, his hands between his knees. Even when he stood up, his hands remained clasped in front of him.

Evidently, the trauma of the hell endured until he was rescued by Kenyan soldiers still casts a dark shadow over his life.

On Monday, Njuguna was reunited with his family at their home in Gichagi-ini in Kandara, Murang’a County. But he found out that his wife had left with his son.

Despite being freed, he was still apprehensive and had great difficulty narrating his ordeal. Njuguna said he and a man identified as James Kiarie were rescued on Thursday night in southern Somalia.

His recollection of his capture by Al-Shabaab was vivid: “I was an assistant driver and we were delivering drugs to Afmadow (in Somalia). We were near an Al-Shabaab base when they arrested me, claiming I was an undercover agent sent to spy on them by the Kenyan government.”

He was seized and locked in a cell, where he found Kiarie, who had been captured at the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya, where he had been working with Care International.

According to Njuguna, Kiarie comes from Mathare-ini, also in Murang’a County. Although Kiarie is supposed to be with his family in Nairobi, the Nation could not trace him.

At the time of his kidnapping, Mr Njuguna worked for Shibli Enterprises Ltd, a firm contracted by Médecins Sans Frontières to ferry medical supplies from Nairobi to Marerey in Afmadow.

Swarm of mosquitos

“We went through a lot of pain, which I am not yet ready to share now.” But Njuguna said that he and Kiarie would be regularly blindfolded and that their conditions were inhumane. At night, the swarms of mosquitos which attacked them were almost unearthly.

In the face of the trauma, the two compatriots would encourage each other. “We knew one day we would either die in captivity or go home but sometimes we lost hope of seeing our people again,” he said.

The fate of the two had remained unknown until February 24 when Al-Shabaab commanders paraded them in a mosque at Barawe amid reports that the two had converted to Islam and would be “released without conditions”.

“I converted to save my soul,” he told the Nation. “That was the only way to survive and avoid death.”
Kenya military last week said that the two were rescued during an ambush at a roadblock, but Njuguna appeared to suggest that Al-Shabaab had attempted to trade them off to the Somali National Army in a deal that collapsed.

He said they were travelling in a matatu with his captors and on reaching Afmadow, they found a barrier manned by Somalia military and they were arrested and locked up in a house. In the night, Kenyan soldiers burst in, identified themselves and immediately took them to the Amisom Level II Hospital in Dhobley for treatment.

No shots were fired but he explains: “It was force because it’s like they were not ready to let us go. It’s like they wanted to trade us in and KDF intervened.”

They were then flown to Nairobi aboard a military aircraft, taken to an undisclosed location for debriefing and later released to join their families on Sunday.

Njuguna’s mother, Mrs Ruth Wairimu Wanyoike, was overjoyed to be reunited with her son. She said she has been devastated for almost three years.

“Two weeks ago after having run out of resources and ideas, we gave up and left everything to God,” she said. But all was not lost.

“I was picking tea on Friday when a neighbour came and told me that he had heard news over the radio about the release of my son,” the mother of six said.

The family was contacted by government officials and six of them travelled to Nairobi and met their lost and found son for the first time in almost three years.

Despite all the celebrations around him, Njuguna was pensive. His wife left their home together with their son. A house he had been building is still at the foundation stage.

“I do not know where to begin. I am happy to be home and God has answered the prayers of my family,” he said.

 Source: Daily Nation


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