A girl writes a letter.

A girl writes a letter. Some Kenyan women had relationships with military men who bolted after children were born.

| Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

Letter to my deadbeat British dad: Stories of children sired by soldiers in Nanyuki

The silver ring on Abby*’s finger is a painful reminder of a six-year love story, a wedding that never was and her teenager daughter’s 17-year search for her British Army father.

Abby’s love affair with former British soldier, Phil*, started in 2001 at a restaurant in Nanyuki town. She was having lunch with her friends when a tall, stocky army man approached her friend.

“He told my friend that he thought I am beautiful and asked if we could exchange contacts. I took his number but did not think too much into it,” she recalls.

After turning down several dates, Phil tracked Abby down to her home.

“A few days after I met him, he invited me out on a date and when I did not show up, he came looking for me at my home,” she says.

His persuasive nature won Abby over and before she knew it, she was in love. Little did she know that it would end in tears.

Eventually, he moved in with her and they would spend time together during his off days or whenever he was on leave.

Phil and Abby got to cultivate their relationship as he was part of the staff officers that served long-term deployments in Nanyuki.

This, however, changed over time as he was later deployed to Afghanistan and Kosovo.

“Because of the nature of his work, he was at times sent to other countries and I would go for months without seeing him, although he would eventually come back,” she says.

Even while overseas, the soldier kept in touch, constantly sending romantic letters and postcards.

If the letters seen by the Saturday Nation are anything to go by, cupid had struck right in the heart of the soldier. Phil was in love — or so it seemed.

So smitten was the British soldier that he even referred to Abby as “wife” and dedicated a share of his military earnings to her.

“He used to tell me that when on deployment, he would stick a photo of us above his bunk bed to remind him of us,” she narrates.

At the end of one of his deployments in 2006, Phil surprised her at the airport by going down on one knee and proposing to her.

A few months after the proposal, she got pregnant for him. Not long after, they started planning for a wedding. It was to take place in August 2007. They also made plans to invest in Nanyuki town together.

However, the bliss came crashing down six months after Abby gave birth to their daughter.

“He visited us one day, held his daughter in his arms and left, never to be seen again. It took me two years to realise that I had actually been abandoned. I always assumed he had been sent to work in a faraway country and was experiencing difficulties communicating with me,” she recalls.

After years of no communication with the soldier, she tried reaching out to him on social media. He, however, blocked her every time she introduced herself.

She says this happened three times, forcing her to eventually give up.

“I also tried reaching his family, but his mother and sister told me that he had denied any involvement with me and his daughter. They said that they could not get involved in my issues as he was an adult capable of making independent decisions,” Abby explains.

Despite the striking physical resemblance of her daughter to the father, she still has not managed to convince her ex-fiancé’s family to accept her child.

“Last December, I shared photos of my daughter with a cousin of my former fiancé and he was astonished by their similarities, saying my daughter’s posture was just like that of her father,” says Abby.

The cousin later called her, informing her that her former fiancé had agreed to visit the country for a DNA test. She, however, never heard from him again.

During the interview, Abby held a bundle of documents pertaining to her former fiancé, among them payslips from the British army, copies of his credit card information, letters they sent each other, and photos of them together. Despite this evidence, she says that it has been difficult for her to get the British Army to compel him to pay for child support.

No appointments

She says that she has presented her complaints numerous times before the British Army barracks in Laikipia and the United Kingdom (UK) high commission in Nairobi, only to be told that the people tasked with handling her complaints were not around.

“What disappointed me most is that they never gave me appointment dates of when the concerned officials will be around,” says Abby.

At one time, she resorted to taking the matter to court, but this did not bear any fruit.

Even with the challenges she faces bringing up her daughter single-handedly, she says she still sees Phil on social media, living large.

“I wish that he could at least contribute to his daughter’s upkeep, especially her education as she joins college next year,” says Abby.

She also hopes that by accepting his daughter, she may be able to acquire dual citizenship.

“Having a (mixed-race) child in Kenya has not been easy for me since people always assume that I am rich and they can easily extort me. At times, I have been forced to deny being her mother,” she says.

Nevertheless, she does not plan to get rid of her engagement ring, since she believes it will not help in erasing the memories of Phil.

“Every time I look at her, I see her father. There is really no need in getting rid of it,” she said.

While Abby is losing hope of ever reuniting with Phil, her 17-year-old daughter Jane* is not giving up on finding her father.

Jane struggles with abandonment issues and an identity crisis, having to deal with bullying, ridicule and even racial abuse from her peers her entire childhood.

Jane is not only angry but visibly hurt by the absence of her father.

With consent from her mother, Jane spoke to the Saturday Nation, saying she is bitter and cannot understand why her father abandoned her.

She has also attempted to reach out to her father on social media but has hit a dead end each time.

“Growing up as a white child in a place like Majengo is hard. At an early age, I was just a really light-skinned girl to other kids. But as we grew older, I became the mzungu girl with no father,” she says.

Her mother would easily shrug off any questions Jane had about her father.

“I was angry at my mum because I thought she was hiding the truth from me, but eventually she opened up to me about what happened,” she says, tearfully.

Today, Jane rummages through the internet trying to find her father and why he has kept away from them for 17 years.

“I have messaged him on every platform,” Jane says. “But every time I do so, he blocks me.”

She adds that now she is almost 18, she does not want much from him except an opportunity to face him and get answers on why he left.

For her, the chance of getting an identity from her father will be enough closure.

“If I was given just one moment with him, I would probably slap him, and then cry; then I would cry some more. Then I will ask him to tell me why he abandoned us. I just want to know why he left me,” she says amid tears.

So far, no form of assistance has been forthcoming from the Batuk or the British High Commission in tracing the former soldier.

The story of Abby and her daughter Jane is not a one-off. She shares similar struggles with *Sophia, a mother of a four-year-old mixed-race boy.

Sophia*, 32, met with the father of her child on social media 11 years ago, when he was serving as a British soldier stationed in Boston, United States of America.

He later visited Kenya for vacation and they spent two weeks together.

On returning to his station in the US, the two maintained communication and the soldier reportedly even started looking for ways to return to Kenya, through a posting under Batuk.

In 2013, he was finally posted to Nanyuki under Batuk.

His stay in the country marked the beginning of a romantic relationship which eventually resulted in the birth of a baby boy in 2019. By the time he was leaving upon the expiry of his contract five years later, she was pregnant for him.

“It was during that time that our relationship started struggling. He was not really receptive to the news of the pregnancy though he said that he was okay with it and would help raise the child,” says Sophia.

After his departure, Sophia found out that the father of her child was already married with a family in the UK. Out of anger, she contacted the soldier’s wife and informed her she was expecting his child.

“He was angry with me and cut off all forms of communication. He no longer answers my calls or responds to my messages,” she says.

Following the birth of her son in March 2019, she informed him but he told her off.