‘I can’t believe DNA test finding that he’s not my son’

Ms Ruth Mbaika Mugendi during an interview at her house in Kibera, Nairobi, on March 3, 2023.

Ms Ruth Mbaika Mugendi during an interview at her house in Kibera, Nairobi, on March 3, 2023.

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita I Nation Media Group

Ms Ruth Mugendi is a distraught woman. She cannot wrap her mind around the finding that a child she believed was her son who disappeared 11 years ago from her home in Silanga, Kibra, turned out not to be him following a DNA test.   

Ms Mugendi is still convinced that the boy whom science has adjudged as not her own is Bernard Mugendi, whom she brought up for two-and-a-half years but who went missing on June 13, 2007, when she had left him sleeping on a couch. 

But the boy she picked out from a group at a children’s home in 2018, whom she could have sworn was her long-lost son, was named Joseph Mwangi.

There was another catch for Ms Mugendi. One Ms Josephine Wacera Mwaura, too, claimed Mwangi was her son. 
Following a complaint filed by Ms Mugendi, a DNA test was arranged involving the two women and the child, who was named – for the purposes of the test - Bernard Mugendi alias Joseph Mwangi.  

The test was conducted in February 2019 at the Government Chemist. 

In her complaint, Ms Mugendi said she had given birth to the boy on December 22, 2004, at St Mary’s Mission Hospital in Langata.

But an inquiry by the Nation did not yield any records of Bernard Mugendi among the 27 children who were born at the hospital on December 22, 2004. 

However, a search at the Civil Registration office in Nairobi confirmed the details on Bernard Mugendi’s birth certificate, including that he was born on December 22, 2004, in Nairobi. 

However, the officer who verified the document issued on December 17, 2019, wondered why Ms Mugendi applied for it 12 years after her son’s disappearance. 

Ms Mugendi’s misery began on June 13, 2007, when she returned home to find her lastborn missing.

She alerted her neighbours who joined the search for the lost child. Ms Mugendi was at the time living as a single mother as her husband, Stanley Mugendi, had left her in 2006. 

After a year, Mr Mugendi showed up, one day after the child’s disappearance and inquired on the whereabouts of his lastborn.
Ms Mugendi was baffled, as she had not informed him about the child’s disappearance. 

Nevertheless, she briefed him on what had happened, adding that she was sure the child would be found. 
Apparently satisfied with the explanation, Mr Mugendi left – for the next 10 years.

The couple had four other children. The missing lastborn had received all his childhood vaccines at Kibera South Health Centre, now Lang’ata Health Centre, according to medical records. The family had settled in Kibra in 2003 after Mr Mugendi lost his job at Starehe Boys Centre, where he had been working as a laundry man.

On relocating to Kibra, the family was welcomed by Ms Faith Muchunji, a long-time friend of Mr Mugendi’s, who helped them settle in their new neighbourhood. 

Faith Muchunji, 83 during the interview at her home in Malaa, Machakos County

Faith Muchunji, 83 during the interview at her home in Malaa, Machakos County on March 8, 2023. She is accused of being part of a team that stole Ms Ruth Mugendi's child in 2007 and placed him at St Lazarus Children's Home which she runs in Malaa. 

Photo credit: Steve otieno | Nation Media Group

Ms Muchunji even offered to take in Mugendi’s children at her private school – St Gabriel Primary School. (The school was however demolished by the government sometime back as it sought space to construct a road in the area). Ms Muchunji actually helped in what turned out to be a fruitless search for the missing baby in 2007. 

The matter went cold for a decade.  Ms Mugendi says by 2017, she had largely resigned to her fate, though she suffered a profound heartache whenever she found herself staring at the only remaining photo of her son, which she had stuck on her wall. 

Husband return

That is until her long-lost husband showed up in early 2018 with what she considered the best news of her life. 

“Look for money, then come and I’ll take you to our lost son.  I know where he is, just find the money,” Ms Mugendi remembers him telling her before he vanished again. 

Ms Mugendi was startled to hear that the child was living with their long-time friend, Ms Muchunji, who was at the time running a children’s home – St Lazarus Children’s Home – in Malaa, Machakos County. This news spread fast in the Silanga neighbourhood. 

“We were overjoyed when the message came in 2018 that the child had eventually been found and that she would be taken by her husband to go bring back their son,” recounted Ms Mary Kemunto, a neighbour.

In October 2018, when her patience in waiting for her estranged husband ran out, Ms Mugendi and a close friend went looking for Ms Muchunji in Malaa. 

Locating her residence wasn’t hard, for the locals call her “Shosho” (meaning grandmother). 

“My heart was pumping so hard. The prospect of seeing my long-lost child was overwhelming. My husband had said that the child was there, and since I could not go there alone, I walked to the nearest police station,” Ms Mugendi said. 

After explaining her mission at the KBC police station in Malaa, her husband, who was working at a construction site in Ruai, was summoned. He took Ms Mugendi and two police officers to Ms Muchunji. 

For the first time in more than a decade, Ms Mugendi reunited with Ms Muchunji. The police officers explained the purpose of their visit and the children were called in for the purpose of identification. 

“The instance they walked to the compound, I immediately picked out my child. He was right there walking towards us leading the pack. I could not believe my eyes. I had given up all hope of ever seeing him again,” Ms Mugendi recalled. 


But there was a problem. The child’s name was not Bernard Mugendi, but Joseph Mwangi. 

Ms Muchunji told the Nation last week that Mwangi was the son of a widow named Josephine and that she had found donors to pay his school fees. 

dna testing

A DNA testing kit. High Court Judge Gregory Mutai noted that the inconclusive results of the DNA analysis did not allow the court to make a final decision on whether to revoke the grant awarded to CWK.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

“I was shocked that she picked Joseph. This is not her son. I know Joseph from his mother’s house here in Malaa. She is a widow and I am the one who talked to her and she gave him to me so that he could continue with his studies,” Ms Muchunji said. 

She acknowledged that Ms Mugendi was known to her and even explained how she had helped her family settle in Kibra almost two decades ago when her husband lost his job at Starehe Boys Centre. 

“I am not a thief. I have never stolen anyone’s child. Mine is to help children from less fortunate families to find education because I know some donors who are willing to help such children,” Ms Muchunji said. 

When Ms Mugendi, her husband and the two police officer visited St Lazarus Children’s home in 2018, it was hosting almost 30 children and most of them were on holiday. 

Recollection of events

One of the children recounted that day’s events.

“We were just having our meal when were summoned to line up at Shosho’s compound. We saw a woman with some police officers and another man. She (Ms Mugendi) was asked to pick her child. She picked Joseph and said he was his son,” she told the Nation

She admitted that she did not know much about what was happening since some of the children there were orphans and it could have been the case. Only for Joseph’s case, she knew his mother (Josephine), who had visited him on a few occasions. 
“It was a bit strange for someone else to say she was his mother but I remember they boarded the police vehicle and they left together with Joseph,” she said. 

From the children’s home, they went to Kilimani Police Station, where the child’s disappearance had first been reported. The parties agreed to a DNA test to determine the boy’s mother. 

Ms Mugendi was certain that the child was hers.

A letter was quickly drafted by police constable Oreu Ngelechei requesting the Government Chemist to conduct a DNA test to establish maternity. The two women and the boy had their samples (buccal swabs) taken. 

The test was conducted by a Government Analyst, Henry Kiptoo Sang, at the Government Chemist’s lab “for the purpose of section 77(1) of the Evidence Act, Laws of Kenya”, part of the letter showing the findings of the results noted. 

On December 2018, the test was conducted and it was noted that “every person inherits half of their DNA from their biological mother and the other half from their biological father.

“By examining the DNA from a person and their parents, it is possible to determine the elements of DNA gained from their biological mother and those gained from their biological father,” the letter explained. 

DNA findings

“Based on the DNA sample profiles generated from the above-mentioned buccal swab samples - There are 99.99 per cent more chances that Josephine Wacera is the biological mother to Bernard Mugendi “alias” Joseph Mwangi. Ruth Mbaika is excluded as a biological mother to Bernard Mugendi “alias” Joseph Mwangi,” Mr Sang concluded on the results signed on February 19, 2019. 

On seeing the results, Ms Mugendi was stumped. 

“The police, after reading the results gave the child to Josephine and Ms Muchunji and that is the last day I ever saw them again. I have tried all efforts to reach the child and Josephine but I have never made any progress. I want us to redo the test at a private facility,” Ms Mugendi said.

Ms Ruth Mbaika Mugendi during an interview at her house in Kibera, Nairobi, on March 3, 2023.

Ms Ruth Mbaika Mugendi during an interview at her house in Kibera, Nairobi, on March 3, 2023.

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita I Nation Media Group

It was also the last time she saw her estranged husband who she believes still lives somewhere in Ruai. 

“Why would Stanley resurface after 10 years saying he knew where the child had been all along then a DNA test shows that I am neither the mother?” Ms Mugendi posed. 

She has refused to accept the results claiming the samples were tampered with, a claim that was refuted by the Government Chemist.

The institution maintained that its tests are done in a very professional manner. 

Mr Sang, who conducted the test, also confirmed that he remembered the case and maintained the results are true.

“If she is not content with our results then she can come we redo it, or she can do another test using the same samples in a private facility or still go to court to contest the results,” he said. 

For their part, the police maintain that their role is limited to complying with the findings of the DNA results. 

Kilimani Sub County Police Commander Andrew Muturi said the police did what they are expected to do as dictated by the law.

“The DNA showed who the mother of the child was and our officers simply did what was right. If she (Ms Mugendi) was not satisfied, she should take the matter to court,” Mr Muturi said. 

Mr Mugendi has on the other hand declined to meet with the Nation about the matter and the numerous calls and text messages sent to him have gone unanswered. 

Ms Josephine Wacera, who was established to be the biological mother of the child, reportedly relocated from Malaa.

Ms Muchunji told the Nation that she had moved to Limuru, Kiambu County, the last time she heard from her. 

She nonetheless shared Ms Wacera’s contact with the Nation, moments after her daughter spoke to one of Ms Wacera’s sons identified as Clinton, who confirmed that the shared contact was indeed his mother’s phone number. 

On the first dial, a man received the phone call and said the owner of the phone was not around and that they would call back as soon as she came back home. 

The next day, calls to the same phone number went unanswered and it was only after a text message detailing why the Nation wanted to speak to Ms Wacera that the same man who had received the call the previous day called, uttered a few incorrigible words, then remained silent and hung up. 

Moments later, the phone was dead. 

The following day, the Nation sent a text message informing Ms Wacera that the story would be published and that her response was very much needed.

An hour later, a phone call came through but another man who identified himself as Brian called and denied knowledge of Ms Wacera, adding that it was a wrong number. 

Ms Mugendi said she had not gone to court as she could not raise the requisite fees. She added that she was planning to organise a fundraiser for a repeat DNA test, which costs Sh30,000.