Police arrest woman linked to child-stealing ring in Mlolongo

Miriam Wesonga

Miriam Wesonga who admitted to have been involved in the theft of three children in Mlolongo area is arrested by police on June 12, 2023.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

A woman suspected to be a member of a child stealing ring that has been abducting children from Mlolongo area and trafficking them to Uganda via Busia was arrested yesterday after sneaking back into the area.

Miriam Wesonga, a self-confessed child abductor, was making porridge for "her" child when a local elder spotted her and alerted the area chief.

The elder, David Nzuki, told journalists that she had disappeared from the area after abducting a two-and-a-half-year-old boy on March 10. The boy was later discovered at Ogalo market in Busia by a passer-by who had seen his missing story on Citizen television and alerted the family.

Nzuki told journalists that he became suspicious when he saw the suspect with another child, recalling that the last time he saw her with a child turned out to be stolen.

"On the day the other child was stolen in March, this woman had walked past my shop several times holding a child and I marked her face because she regularly used that route. About 40 minutes later, a couple friend of mine walked by claiming to have lost their son, whose description matched the one she was carrying. I told them about the woman, but I couldn't confess much at that time because I was afraid of getting involved in the matter, but I decided to keep watch and alert the couple the next time I saw the woman, which I did today," Nzuki said.

Alarmed and wary that she might have come back to abduct another person, Mr. Nzuki also contacted Mlolongo chief, Mr. Peter Ndunda, who took her in for interrogation and then transferred her to Mlolongo police station for processing.

At the chief's camp, Miriam confessed to her actions and named her accomplices.

"She also confessed that she stole my son in the name of another woman who has no children of her own. We think she was back to prey on her next victim," said the father of the boy stolen in March.

The second child had been stolen hours before the suspect was caught and recovered in Mlolongo.

According to the chief, the suspect further confessed to being part of a gang of three women who steal children from Mlolongo area for sale in Uganda.

"She said she gets Shs 50,000 for every successful operation and that is why I later took her to Mlolongo Police Station for prosecution. According to her confession, she has so far stolen three children, two of which have been recovered while one is still missing. We are also not sure if the child she was found with is hers as she claims," said Chief Ndunda.

The chief added that cases of child theft in the Mlolongo area remain high and that the kidnappers lure children by giving them sweets and tasty bites before picking them up and fleeing with them.

At the Mlolongo police station, hardly a day goes by without a missing person's report being filed, as evidenced by the large number of missing persons posters on the station's bulletin board.

"This is a business, she said, and she gets paid for it. We have yet to find out who her accomplices are and why they are taking her to Uganda. This will be established during the course of investigation," added the chief, who also called on parents in the area to always check the whereabouts of their children, especially when they are not in school.

In her brief confession to journalists as she walked to the station, Miriam said one of her victims was wanted by a woman named Purity who could not bear children of her own.

A 2017 report on abductions in Kenya by the National Crime and Research Center notes that children are mainly abducted when they leave school alone and when they are left unsupervised at home.

"Teachers, parents and guardians must ensure that young children leaving school for home are picked up and accompanied by trusted adults in the evening hours," the report warns.

In Kenya, the majority of abduction victims were children and adolescents under the age of 18, with girls accounting for 55.1 percent of victims.