Missing children
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Puzzle of 32 children who disappeared without trace in Eldoret

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Children who have disappeared from Langas estate, Eldoret are aged between one month and nine years.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Walking down the densely populated dusty and filthy streets of Langas residential Estate in Eldoret town, all seems to be well.

Deeper into the shanties inside the populous estate, innocent children will be playing in groups, if not in school. Uncollected garbage and filthy sewers complete the picture of the middle-income residential estate in Uasin Gishu County.

Behind all these, however, there is a crisis that has thrown parents in Langas Estate in panic.

It pertains to the puzzle of children who have been reported missing in this estate.

There is a pattern to the mysterious disappearances, as a majority of the reported cases are girls—all under the age of 10.

According to human rights activists, led by the Centre Against Torture (CAT), 32 children have been reported missing in the estate over the past three months. CAT claims 31 out cases are girls and one is a boy.

Although police have given contrary figures, the disappearances have caused panic, and parents are no longer certain about the safety of their young ones.

All cases have been reported at Langas police station, which is now under the spotlight over how its officers have handled the disappearance cases.

The children who have disappeared are aged between one month and nine years, and residents believe a network of child traffickers is involved.

Behind the walls of the homes, the disappearances are putting couples in conflict, with suspicions and counter-accusations.

Josephine Ongachi is among the parents affected. The mother of four is a disturbed parent after her seven-year-old daughter went missing on the evening of March 14 at around 1848 hours.

The parent recalls that the minor went outside their compound to buy mandazi from a nearby kiosk.  She has never returned.

Her efforts to trace the minor around the larger Langas estate have proved futile, with no hint on what could have happened to the child.

“The last time I saw my daughter was on the evening of March 14 after purchasing for me ‘kangumu’ before giving her Sh5 to buy mandazi. I waited for them to return in vain. My efforts to trace her have proved futile for the last week,” Ms Ongachi told nation.africa on Wednesday.

Since the incident, Ms Ongachi has become a frequent visitor at Langas police station with the hope of getting good news about her missing baby girl.

About 50 meters away from Ms Ongachi’s home, in Theka-Theka area within the estate, nation.africa met another family in agony, after failing to trace their five-year-old daughter.

Ms Ongach’s namesake, Josephine Mwihaki is also in pain following the disappearance of her granddaughter named after her.

She was holding a torn pair of open shoes belonging to her missing granddaughter aged five years when nation.africa visited her home. The shoes remind her of the event of February 24 when Mwihaki Junior alias Wairimu went missing at around 7pm.

On the fateful day, Mwihaki was playing with her playmates at their compound’s gate.

“I cannot explain how my granddaughter was picked from her playmates. Since then we have never experienced peace as a family,” said Ms Mwihaki.

The minor was a PP2 pupil at Solasa Academy.

Ms Mwihaki blames police at Langas police station, accusing them of laxity in helping residents unravel the rampant incidents of missing children.

From Theka-Theka, we crossed to Block Two area about a hundred meters away, still within the estate where we meet a tearful 32-year-old Jenipher Akoth who is yet to come to terms with the mysterious disappearance of her year and seven months old daughter.

“Since I reported the incident of my missing daughter, police at the station have been hostile to me whenever I inquire about their progress in tracing my daughter,” claimed Ms Jenipher Akoth, Block Two area, Langas, Eldoret. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Joyline Imali went missing on the morning of January 4, this year, while playing with other children outside their house. Her playmates said she was taken by a light-skinned woman who told them she was the child’s aunt and she was going to buy the child some sweets.

“She was my last-born daughter. Her disappearance has left my family paralysed,” a tearful Ms Akoth told nation.africa.

“I vividly recall the morning of January 7 this year, at around 8 am when I went out to bring her to take breakfast. That is when I was hit with the bad news of her disappearance,” she recalled.

According to Ms Akoth, her daughter’s playmates had told her that a brown woman dressed in a buibui took her to a shop promising to buy her a sweet. That was the last they saw her.

Her efforts to trace the toddler in the neighborhood have been futile. It has been three months since, and she still holds hope of finding her child.

“Despite the torment that we are going through as a family, I am hopeful that God will answer our prayers and we shall find my baby,” she said, who like the other families, has also reported the matter at Langas police station.

“Since I reported the incident of my missing daughter, police at the station have been hostile to me whenever I inquire about their progress in tracing my daughter,” claimed Ms Akoth.

The children’s mothers speak of frustration following up with police on their cases. They claim police at Langas police station have been insensitive to their plight, accusing them of being irresponsible parents.

Block Two village elder Odinga Musita has since called on police officers from Langas police station to take the matter seriously and help affected parents trace their children.

“As the chairman of village elders in this area, I suspect there is a network of child traffickers involved in this syndicate and police should not take it lightly,” said Mr Musita.

Mr Musita says out of the four children who went missing in his area three months ago, three were found. According to the village elder, the children who were reunited with their parents were found either dumped in the streets of Eldoret or at children's rescue centres.

700 meters away from Ms Akoth’s home, in the Kambi Nyoka area, Eunice Atieno is also in deep distress following the disappearance of her six-year-old daughter.

Just like other parents her daughter- Whitney Awour disappeared in the evening. That was March 4 at around 6.45 pm. She was a PP2 pupil at Brown’s Academy.

“She was playing with other children outside our main gate on the day she went missing. I reported the incident at Langas police station,” said Ms Atieno, a mother of two.

She learned from her child’s playmates that she was approached by a light-skinned woman who took her away.

She claims police don’t seem to take the matter seriously, and even make fun of her, accusing her of being a drunk careless mother.

“I thought police at Langas police station would help me but what I have been receiving at the station are insults. They blame me for being careless and call me an irresponsible parent instead of helping me trace my daughter,” said Ms Atieno.

Just as we were about to leave Ms Atieno’s home, another mother approached us with information that at the neighboring school, twins aged six reportedly went missing under unclear circumstances.

We were not immediately able to confirm this particular case at Brown’s Academy, and we are still on it.

Affected parents are concerned that photos of their children which had been displayed at Langas police station as missing children were pulled down from the notice board under unclear circumstances.

Following the incidents, human rights activists in Eldoret have put the Langas police on the spot, accusing them of doing little to help parents in anguish.

“The reports we are receiving from Langas police station are scary. We expect the police to help locals get justice and promote the rule of law but what is happening at the station is contrary to the expectations,” said Kimutai Kirui of the Centre Against Torture.

Street children activist Benson Juma accused police of dragging their feet on the cases. He claimed a suspect was arrested a month ago and was released under unclear circumstances.

“The rights of children surpass all other rights. Police must move in with speed and act, instead of engaging the affected families in counter-accusations,” said Mr Juma.

The activists have given police seven days to act, failure to which they threaten to stage demonstrations in Eldoret town demanding the transfer of all officers at the Langas police station.

“We have given police officers at Langas police station seven days to intervene in this matter, failure to which we are going to stage demonstrations in Eldoret town demanding for the removal of all officers at Langas police station,” said Mr Kirui.

Eldoret South sub-county police commander, Sarah Chumo confirmed that four cases of missing children have been reported at the station. Ms Chumo said information about the missing children has been circulated on all police social media platforms.

“We have a report of four missing children reported at Langas police station. The information has been shared on our social media platforms and investigations are still ongoing,” said Ms Chumo.

Ms Chumo further revealed that eight other children were rescued from Langas estate as children in need of care and protection and taken to various rescue centres in Uasin Gishu county for protection and safe care.

According to Ms Chumo, the eight children might be part of the missing children in Langas. She said all the children are below the age of seven.

The police boss defended her officers against allegations of laxity. She claimed affected parents fear visiting rescue centres to confirm if the rescued children were their children, fearing arrest by children officers over child neglect.

Kapseret Sub County Assistant County Commissioner Victor Ochola shared her sentiments, accusing some parents of being drunkards and irresponsible.

“Some of the parents who are claiming that their children are missing are drunkards who are irresponsible parents contributing to the disappearance of their children,” said Mr Ochola.