On June 23, a 32-year-old Gambian woman set out on a 50-day journey in search of her unknown mother in Kenya.
Fanta Jallow stepped on the Kenyan soil for the first time when her flight touched down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on June 24.
She had high hopes of achieving her mission within the stipulated period.
However, the task that lay ahead of her was an enormous one as she was looking for a person whose identity, appearance and address she had no idea.
The only thing she was certain about was her nationality— Kenyan. Jallow embarked on the mission after spending years trying to find out her mother’s identity in vain.
Back at home in Brikana, Gambia, she was raised by her paternal grandparents who shared very little information to help her unravel the whereabouts of her mother.
The scanty information she had gleaned is that her parents were deported to Kenya by her in-laws who allegedly tortured her after giving birth to Jallow.
Not even her father Pete Jallow, now based in the US, was willing to share information concerning her mother. And because blood is thicker than water, Jallow decided to find the person who gave birth to her against all the odds. Dead or alive, rich or poor, sane or crazy, she was ready to embrace.
But upon landing in Nairobi, Jallow was met with the first shock of witnessing the fast-paced life of Kenyans. “I had been told what to expect once I arrived in Nairobi but I was first overwhelmed by the way people were operating,” she told the Nation.
She had contacts for her host from Nakuru County so she waited patiently for them to pick her up.
After resting for a night, she embarked on her mission. She started off by familiarising herself with the new environment and its people.
She was curious about the people, especially women, because she hoped that she might bump into her mum or someone who would notice her resemblance to someone they know.
There were very many people, she says, but none of them appeared to know anything.
Jallow approached various media houses in Nakuru town as she booked for an appointment with several TV and radio stations.
Her stories were published and aired on various platforms. She shared the links of her stories on her social media account, hoping to get as wide coverage as possible.
However, she received very little useful feedback. At one time, some of the social media users claimed she resembled a Kenyan musician Esther Akoth, alias Akothee, and even went ahead to call out on the singer to comment on the same.
“So many people were telling me that I looked like Luo. Others claimed that I looked like the musician Akothee and I became so curious.”
However, she was not lucky to meet her. Her next step was to travel to various regions across the country. She travelled to Mombasa town where her mother is said to have lived before travelling to Germany.
Her mother, identified as Maria Suware, travelled abroad in search of greener pastures.
After spending days in Mombasa without success, she set on another journey to western Kenya and made a stopover in Eldoret.
One of her Facebook users had earlier sent her a direct message seeking to meet her after learning of her story. The Eldoret family claimed their daughter by the name Maria Kemboi had also gone to Germany after staying in Mombasa at around 1983. “The story appeared similar and we felt we should go an extra mile in trying to establish the truth,” said Jallow.
However, the family was not ready to undergo a DNA test and requested for some time to decide.
Later, the woman travelled to other counties, including Kericho and Baringo, but found no leads to the puzzle.
By the time her 50-day stay was expiring on August 16, Jallow was yet to get any tangible information on her mother’s whereabouts.
“I cannot say that I failed in my mission because there is much that I can be happy about in my search. I feel like I have moved several steps towards getting to the truth,” she said.
During her two months stay in Kenya, Jallow said she learned a lot about Kenyan people, their culture and the country at large. “I had a great experience in Kenya with its people showing me a lot of love. They took me as their own and everyone was willing to help,” she said.
The woman says she was able to learn some Swahili words such as sasa, ahsante and hakuna matata. She also enjoyed Kenyan meals, more so chapati, which she says was her favourite. “This is just the beginning of the journey and I am determined to continue even if it means making more trips to Kenya. I am still engaging the family in Eldoret to see if we can do the test.”