Huduma card renews family’s hope of tracing kin missing for 45 years 

Kamene Katunduma

Ms Kamene Katunduma displays her elder brother Benjamin Malii Livu’s Huduma Namba card at Ivuusya village in Kitui County on May 20. He went missing in 1974. Pius Maundu | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Area chief delivered the missing man’s Huduma Namba card with his details and a picture.
  • The card, which the Sunday Nation has seen, has a mugshot of a grey-haired man identified as Benjamin Malii Livu.

A family in Mwingi, Kitui County, is experiencing a bittersweet moment after they were informed that the Huduma Namba card of their kin, who has been missing for more than 45 years, was available for collection.

The relatives of Benjamin Malii Livu intensified the search for their missing kin three weeks ago after Imba location chief John Mbiti delivered the missing man’s Huduma Namba card with his details and a picture that seemed to match his current age —yet he had not been seen or heard from for more than four decades.

"The Huduma Namba card has renewed our hope of reuniting with my elder brother Benjamin. It is the clearest signal that he could be alive. At least he was alive a year ago when the government rolled out the first phase of Huduma Namba registration. He must have registered somewhere and provided details of his village," his younger sister, Kamene Katunduma told the Sunday Nation during an interview at Ivuusya Village, a quiet neighbourhood overlooking Mungao Hill at the heart of Kitui County.

The 69-year-old peasant farmer and her family remain upbeat, crossing fingers that the missing man will one day come knocking. They now cling to the hope that the Huduma Namba card is the only key to reunite them with the first born in a family of eight. 

The card, which the Sunday Nation has seen, has a mugshot of a grey-haired man identified as Benjamin Malii Livu indicated as born 64 years ago in Mwingi Central. However, according to Ms Katunduma, her brother is now supposed to be 70. The card was issued on March 3, 2021. On where it was issued, the card indicates ‘Nairobi’.

Mr Malii left his homestead at Ivuusya village in the present-day Mwingi sub-county in 1974, at the prime of his youth. At first the disappearance did not bother his relatives, friends and neighbours as it is normal for the youth to relocate from rural areas to look for employment opportunities in faraway cities and towns. But they are expected to return regularly after securing a breakthrough.

Mr Malii’s relatives got concerned when he failed to return home as soon as they expected. He did not even show up in 2014 during the burial of his mother, Mwende Livu, raising serious concerns.

Had big plans

“I saw Malii last in April 1974 at the Kindaruma Dam site where he worked alongside my brother in-law Mumo Musyoka and Malula Tonde, his relative. He was a good man who spoke calmly and had big plans. For instance, he had planned to return home four months later, build a homestead and marry. This did not happen. It is said he picked his small bag and left quietly, leaving the door to his rented house ajar,” Ms Katunduma told Sunday Nation

Although he was easygoing, Mr Malii was truant in school, according to Mzee Mwangangi Mbuthi, one of his friends and classmates at Ukasi Primary School. 

“Chances are high he had given up on his family after his father died,” the shopkeeper at Nguutani market told Sunday Nation.

Mr Malii was not married by the time he left home. This pains the relatives a lot because, if anything happened to him, a man is expected to be inherited by his children. The fate of four goats that he once bought remains unknown. He had with him an Identity Card. All he left behind are fond memories.

Ms Katunduma is particularly attached to her big brother.

“He had a special name for me, Nyumbu, which I have since dropped. While working at Kindaruma Dam, he introduced me to eating turtle eggs which we bought from a vendor known as Kimani who collected them along the shores of River Tana. We savoured the delicious pancakes we made with the eggs,” the farmer recalled, her eyes welling with tears.

She added: “I think it is the devil that got hold of my big brother”.

Search team

Equally affected by the disappearance is Mary Mbuthye, the last born.

“I have grown up hearing about my big brother who is said to be big hearted and loved our mother unreservedly. I am more than 40 years old now and all I want is to set eyes on him,” Ms Mbuthye said.

The 45-year-old told Sunday Nation that she has been praying for the brother all those years.

Mr Malii’s relatives had almost given up on him until his Huduma Namba card emerged. The card carrying a unique identifier is supposed to be a key to a warehouse of personal information, in the new plan by the government to enhance efficiency in service delivery. But for the larger Livu family and their neighbours, the Huduma card is their only hope of reuniting with their missing relative.

The extended family has set up a search team led by Titus Maluki, one of Mr Malii’s nephews. The team’s first line of action was to publish a photo of the Huduma Namba card on social media and circulate the appeal widely in a bid to reunite with the missing man. 

“Our efforts to track the background details such as where he filled in for the card and the telephone number he may have provided while applying for the card hit a snag when we went to the Huduma Centre at Teleposta Towers in Nairobi. We were told that such details are unavailable,” the 49-year-old Mr Maluki, who works in Nairobi, told Sunday Nation on phone.

“By virtue of the last point I saw him, I strongly believe my brother has settled down in either Embu or Machakos,” said Ms Katunduma.