Belinda is a 13-year-old girl from Kaptolomwo village in Kasei Ward, West Pokot County, Kenya. She is a class 8 candidate at Kaptolomwo Primary School, scheduled to sit for her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams later this year. She is brilliant student ranked index 2 in her school and being a top girl she was so determined to excel and secure herself a high school of her choice. Her dream was to complete her studies, secure a job and help her struggling mother to bring up her younger siblings. Sadly, as it stands Belinda’s dream has been washed down the drain unless drastic action is taken!
It’s alleged on the evening of 26th April 2019 a middle aged man named Ptolelio invited about 32 men to his home, in Korkou Sub-location in Kasei location/ward. He hosted the team in one of his two wives house and slaughtered a goat for the group of men. The ceremony was also attended by boda boda riders from the locality. It was in preparation and planning of abduction of Belinda the 13-year-old child who lives in the neighboring village of Kaptolomwo sub location of Kasei location/ward.
The men devised a plan and delegated roles. Some men were tasked with ensuring there was no obstruction or interference in the exercise. Their role was to ensure that when they arrive in Belinda’s village, they would proceed to lock from outside all the neighbor’s doors including those of National Police Reservists. Those who owned boda bodas were to aid in transportation.
At around 3AM on that fateful day, about ten of the men arrived at Belinda’s home, the family was sound asleep in their one room grass thatched house. They called from outside, calling her mother who responded asking the men what they wanted. One of the men, the spokesperson of the group, informed Belinda’s mother that they were looking for a woman, who had run away from her husband? Upon being told there was no visitor in the homestead let alone a woman who had run away from her marriage, she was instructed to open the door for them to confirm. The spokesperson insisted that they had been tipped that the woman they were looking for was hiding in her house and she better opened the door willingly or they would break in.
Belinda’s mom knowing very well that there was no guest in her house she asked one of the girls to open the door to prove the men wrong. To her there was nothing to fear nor to be scared of as the men spoke the local language and they had informed her the village they were coming from, No names!
One of the girls who was sleeping on the floor stood up opened the door then went back to sleep. The men walked in without hesitating. The mother asked them to have a look around assuring them that all the children sleeping on the floor were hers. She even asked them to check it out using their torches. The men proceeded to check every face. Lifting their blankets. When they got to Belinda they roughed her up, totally oblivion of what was going on Belinda started to scream. Her mother upon hearing the screams of her daughter jumped from the bed and stood by the door. She intercepted the men and got hold of her daughter holding unto her very tightly. Belinda too struggled to free herself from the men. They held unto each other fighting hard not to be pulled past the door.
When the men sensed that it was going to be a struggle which could cause delay of their plan or even a failed mission, they attacked the mother. She was beaten with a walking sticks on the face, the head and her entire body. She still could not give-in and that is when one of the men from outside instructed the other men to kick her in the stomach. Few kicks sent her down unconscious. Belinda was forcefully carried shoulder high to the nearby awaiting motorbike after receiving some blows too.
The following morning the chiefs followed up to the home of the Ptolelio but he wasn’t there. After a day the chiefs in the area were informed that the girl had been taken over to the boarder of Uganda where Ptolelio had another homestead complete with cattle and other family members resided there. We brought it up with the county commissioner who instructed the DC to accompany the chiefs in the rescue mission to this village in Uganda working with the permission and support of Uganda police. The team went to the village where the man was thought to be hiding Belinda but she was nowhere to be seen.
It’s now over a month since Belinda was abducted. The authorities are well informed and I thank them for the initial efforts taken towards the rescue. But by the look of things, it seems that’s the end of the search from the authority’s side and nobody seems to be prioritizing the rescue of this poor girl anymore. Everyone has gone silent on the case, either having surrendered or just not really serious about it. Out of the alleged 32 men, no single arrest has been made despite these being known men among the chiefs and the local authorities. The home where the planning meeting happened has not been investigated.
I visited Belinda’s mother in her village on 14th May 2019. Before getting to her homestead I passed by the Assistant County Commissioner’s office (Kasei) where we had a brief meeting joined by the area chief and the inspector of Administration police. I demanded to know why no one had been arrested, and how comes no progress had been made. The only information I got was the locals were very secretive and would not share any leading information. I thought that was failure in the police intelligence. The police have criminal investigators and all the skills and knowledge to acquire information in such circumstances. Three weeks and no progress?
As for Belinda’s mother I did an interview with her. Her only cry is for her daughter to be rescued so as to continue with her education. She is still unwell and unable to lift anything with her right hand which she suspects might be dislocated, her face bears fresh physical evidence of the beating. She says her right side of the chest hurts, she suspects a rib or two may be broken/injured and she has no money to seek further medical attention. She has an OB number for the case and a P3 form. Unfortunately, she has been forced to sell her only cow to facilitate some of the rescue teams but as it stands she has neither the cow! Or the daughter!
She concluded the interview by saying she had lost the will to live in the absence of her beloved daughter.
The Irony of the matter!
The Day of the Africa child is coming up on 16th June 2019. Plans and preparations are in top gear to mark and celebrate this very important day. Coincidentally, West Pokot is hosting the National launch of the Day of the African Child celebrations this year. The Theme for this year’s celebrations is: “Humanitarian Action In Africa: Children’s Rights First’’ My question begs is there something to celebrate really, when children are being abducted and tortured, their rights violated left and right? Where’s the humanitarian action in protecting and rescuing Belinda? The stake holders led by Senior County officials are sitting pretty in planning meetings while Belinda is out there in the cold being subjected to the most horrible abuse including rape. Who will speak for Belinda? #BringBelindaBack
Child Rights Activist from West Pokot County
Edited By Tony Mwebia