A mother’s cry for soldier captured by Shabaab during El Adde attack
There was no shadow of doubt in her voice when she saw the picture.
“Yes, that is him! That is him! May God have mercy on him,” the mother of the KDF soldier, currently a captive of Al-Shabaab in Somalia, exclaimed.
Then she broke down after looking at her son’s picture.
Mrs Christine Nzilani Kiiyo identified her son, Leonard Maingi, immediately she saw a picture frozen from a video released by Al-Shabaab on Tuesday this week.
“We need him and I’m pleading with the government to do everything in its power to save him. I am also pleading with the people who have him to spare his life,” said Mrs Kiiyo.
In an interview at her home in Vengea village in Tulimani in Makueni County, Mrs Kiiyo said she has prayed day and night for her son’s safe return.
She has never heard from him since he left for Somalia on January 1, 2016.
From the video which has since been pulled down, it is now evident that her son was captured by Al-Shabaab when they attacked the KDF camp at El-Adde on January 15, killing over 100 Kenyan soldiers.
Mr Maingi is a medic in the military’s nursing section.
In the video, Mr Maingi sends a message, beseeching President Uhuru Kenyatta to negotiate with the militiamen so that he and his colleagues can be released.
He also gave details about his home area.
“The last time I spoke with him was the day they left for Somalia on January 1, 2016. He called me while at the airport and told me to pray for him and his colleagues, as they were heading to a danger zone,” said Mrs Kiiiyo, adding that she later learnt that Mr Maingi, while in Somalia, had written a message to his wife asking her to take care of their three children.
ALIVE BUT IN PRISON
Her 41-year-old son, the fifth born, had been the backbone of the family, paying fees for his siblings.
“We heard about the El-Adde attack from one of my sons who works in Nairobi. He told us that Al-Shabaab had attacked soldiers and suspected that Maingi was one of them. After the news broke that several soldiers had died, we thought he was one of them.
“His wife and my other son went to the mortuary after the bodies arrived and they even underwent DNA analysis that was done for the purpose of identifying the dead soldiers. But he was not among them,” she said.
Later, her son went home and told them that he had received news that Mr Maingi was alive in Somalia but as a prisoner of war.
Apart from my son who is a police officer working in Nairobi, I have heard no other communication from anyone,” she said, adding that she had been praying that God spares his life.
Mr Maingi, who served at the Kenya Army’s 9th Battalion based at Moi Barracks in Eldoret, had previously gone for missions in Somalia and Sudan.
His wife, Eunice Maingi, said their three sons still ask about their father’s whereabouts.
“We all have hopes that he will come home safe. We will continue to pray for him day and night and we hope that the government will be able to rescue him,” she said.
She said her husband called her on January 12, three days before the El-Adde attack.
“On 16th, just when news of the attack broke, he texted me and told me to take care of the children and that he loves us very much. That was the last thing I ever heard from him.
“Later, we started identification of the bodies of the soldiers and my brother in law gave out samples for DNA analysis,” she said.
She was later admitted to hospital for one month because of depression.
While still in hospital, her son who was joining Form One visited her and gave her hope, telling her that he would still go to school, although late, because he was optimistic that his father was alive.
“I have chosen to dedicate my time to regularly pray for him. I am hopeful that God will listen,” said Mrs Maingi, who runs a business in Nairobi.
She said she missed her husband and that the emergence of the video posted online had given her a ray of hope, because at least she knows he is alive.
Ms Teresia Ndunge, Mr Maingi’s older sister, said life has never been the same for the family since her brother’s capture.
“He has always been hardworking and wanted to raise the standards of our family,” she said.
“I would like to plead to the government to rescue him and other people who may be captives of Al-Shabaab because their families are suffering,” she said.