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That Time They Captured Us

Very few of us will ever find ourselves on the sharp-elbow of Somalia, spending hot musky days lying on a mat under a sketchy thorn tree waiting for unspoken peril. We might never know the smell of fear on our skin. We will not know how it is to have our freedom forcibly relinquished and our life balanced precariously on the decisions made by a ragtag band of wild-eyed brigands lugging guns against their skinny shuka-clad bodies, occasionally spitting green cud on the dusty ground.  

None of us here reading this, right this moment will ever know how it feels like to be abducted by Somali outlaws who keep shouting in your face; “We kill you, they no pay, we will kill you!, their breaths a thick plume of khat, cigarettes and terror.  

But Janet Muthoni Kanga does.

They captured her. And held her and two of her colleagues, in the very armpits of Somalia, a hairy place that lurked terror, evil and lawlessness.

She was held for two years.

We are at Eka Hotel seated at a reasonably quiet section of the lounge at the end of the reception. I have my travelling bag at my feet because I just landed from Kilimanjaro, TZ on the 6-am flight on an African Wildlife Foundation’s assignment on sniffer dogs that help in conservation. I can feel my endorphins still coursing in my body. Because in the Precision Airline’s  flight Captain Rizwan brought the plane so close to Mount Kilimanjaro that we could see the texture of the rocks. For fifteen minutes he went round that mountain and everybody leaned to the right peering through the windows. It was so close you could reach out and touch it. (With a very long stick) Then he lifted the plane to 20,000ft above the mountain’s 16,100ft and soon we were literally flying above the mountain!

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he announced in his silky captain’s voice, “you are now on top of Africa.” I swear what was missing were African drums. The view below, by Jove! It was a fine time to be on top of Africa and to be an African. The detour lasted almost 20mins and as he slowly twisted that bird and curved away from the mountain, away from the small craters and the clouds now lit orange by the rising sun, and the icecaps, he said almost ruefully, “Oh well, we will start descending into Nairobi any moment now, please don’t forget to collect your Kili summit certificates from the cabin crew.” And everybody laughed and clapped.

Flying is normally so boring and unmemorable that when you get such moments you tend to appreciate them more. It’s always a pleasure to be flown by funny captains because the rest are just caught up in looking cool behind their Ray-Bans.

To  Captain Rizwan Rebtula, if ever your job becomes dull and monotonous and you question if your purpose on earth is just to fly planes and say things like, “Flight attendants, doors to arrival and crosscheck,” please never forget that flight four days ago because unbeknownst to you, you made everybody in that plane so happy that early morning. But more than that, you sent us away with such a special and unforgettable memory. Thank you.

Back to Eka Hotel.

On 11th July 2012, Janet Muthoni Kanga, then only 36 years old and working for International Aid Services (IAS) was seated at the back of a Land Cruiser that was weaving it’s way in the patchland of Somalia’s Puntland on a site visit.  Riding behind them was another Land Cruiser with three Puntland Police Officers carrying guns. Security. They had been to Garoowe and its small villages, to IDP camps with the yellow tarpaulin dwellings, fluttering in the wind. Seated in front was their Somali liaison officer, Ahmed. Two of her colleagues, Abdinoor and Kioko, rode with her at the back. They spoke little but stared out through the window at the moving brown-patched landscape consisting of squat thorn tree, camels walking in a line, Somali men with gaunt faces stared at them with passing interest. They zoomed through known pockets of dangerous villages known to sympathise with Al Shabaab and through safe villages whose clans weren’t. They passed thirsty goats clustered under measly shadows of trees. They drove through sand and donkeys and more camels. Sometimes small children waved at their stout motorcade. Sometimes women turned to look at them from their buibuis, mysterious in their veils. “I wondered how it was to be born a woman in this part of the world,” Muthoni tells me. Well the universe was listening.

They got off roads and passed through small towns with ageing men seated at the verandahs of shops, men with orange-dyed beards, shukas gathered between their legs, leaning on walking sticks. They stopped at villages and inspected generators that powered boreholes that fed schools and hospitals and camps. The got back on the tarmac roads and drove into lulled villages to check households with water filters and to check the progress of latrine constructions. They marked GPS co-ordinates of their projects. They supervised the repairs that had been done on camels’ watering troughs. They talked to single mothers and mothers with kids with special needs. They stopped for qado (lunch) at Ahmed’s house where a host of smiling and hospitable buibui clad womenfolk brought out plate after plate of camel meat, bariis, and camel soup, maraq, bread, potatoes, qaranfuul, meat stew, lettuce, guava juice, bananas (of course) and sabaayad (chapos). They sat on mats on the floor and ate with their hands, legs crossed.

“Are Somali chapos any good?”  

“Excellent. They make some really tasty chapos there.” She says.  

Later, children gathered around the departing group. One of the women brought a jerrican of camel milk as a send-away gift as they said their goodbyes. At 4:30pm they set off, as in the horizon, a wind storm curled towards the sky. They had to beat the sunset which sets earlier in Somalia than it does in Kenya.

(Please allow me to change the tense here because shit is about to go down and past tense can’t hack it).

The convoy sets off. The security car stops to refuel. Everybody is full. The road curls and curves. Acacia trees rise and fall. At 5:30pm just as they are passing Harfo, a dark green Surf – out of nowhere – suddenly drives into the road from the bush. They are like whoa! What the….! They grind to a halt and men with guns jump out and start shooting in the air. The security car which was behind them overtakes their cruiser and stops between them and the shooters. Muthoni’s first thought was, this is a stick up. We are being robbed. They will take our phones and money and they will let us go.

Things happen very fast. She defies everything she was taught during security training for humanitarian workers just a few months ago, one which is not to try escape when faced with gunmen. She leans forward and tells Ahmed to reverse and he in turn commands the driver in rapid Somali who turns the car around sharply right into the bush.

Bullets start raining on them. Kalashnikov bullets.

 

“It was like rain on mabati,” she tells me. “It was loud and it seemed to go on forever, hitting our car. I remember thinking, ‘why aren’t we dying?’

They zoom off in the opposite direction and but 300-meters in, the car starts slowing down and stops all together because their tyre had been shot. Ahmed isn’t moving, he has been shot in the chest and is bleeding, a bullet is lodged in his spine. He raises his bloodied hands and motions them to leave the car, to go. They pile out of the car and stumble into the thicket, which isn’t really a thicket, more like patches of thorny shrubs. She calls her sister but disconnects then calls their Country Director as they run, and it rings and rings. Suddenly she remembers seeing more of them in front while hearing footsteps and shootings behind them.

They were cornered.

It was all over. They stop and kneel down, hands in the air in surrender. She closes her eyes and waits for a bullet to hit the back of her head. Men are talking in an excited and agitated manner in Somali. A rough hand roughly grabs a fistful of her hair and yanks her up to her feet.

“Did you have this natural hair then?” I ask her.

“No,” she says, “a weave.”

I successfully resist the urge to roll my eyes.

They are bundled in the back of a vehicle. There is more shooting as the men with guns jump in cars and off they go. The car is driven recklessly and at a very fast speed through the shrubbery. The men are talking in excited Somali as they laugh smoke and chew khat.

She passes out.

When she comes to they are still speeding, her glasses are gone, so is her phone. One pirate with his gun to her head asks her, “You UN?” she says, “No, NGO”. “Big office,  Europe, yes?” They all cheer. They speed through the wasteland of dirt. They force their way through roadblocks, shooting in the air. At some point they swap vehicles. They drive some more to what seems like the end of the planet earth (maybe to the horn of Africa itself!). At some point as they are nearing a village, about a dozen or so men with AK-47s come out and stand in a line and start shooting in the air. The vehicles stop and they also start shooting in the air. The men won’t allow them to pass through their village; they have their women and children in there and they will be damned to let them through. There is more shouting and more shooting in the air. A Soomaali stand-off.

“I was sure there was going to be shootout there and we would all get killed,” she says. “Thankfully, the bandits back down, turn around and use a different direction away from that village.”

Night falls.  

She remembers one of them in an Adidas track-suit handing her his jacket which later she discovered had lice. They are given biscuits and juice. Throughout the drive they play very loud Somali music; she remembers the glowing blue of the dashboard and this one song that was playing on the DVD player of a Somali lady in white trousers and reddish top.

She prays.

Finally they drive into a village and they are taken to what looks like a cave, with stonewalls and some underground river.  A man comes out, he’s the translator. He’s calm. He speaks English with a slight trace of a North American accent. He also speaks Kiswahili. “Don’t worry, the whole world now knows about your kidnapping because it’s been reported on BBC,” he tells them calmly as if that is supposed to be great news. “These are pirates and they are only interested in ransom. If you come out of here you can all write books and make loads of money.” He laughs. His voice echoes in the cave.

He asks them if they have any medication requirements, drugs they might be taking. He leaves them with armed guards who mill around chewing miraa and smoking. Another man comes and takes away her earrings and their watches. Their pictures are taken. They spend the night on the floor the first night. The next day they are handed clothes, shukas for the gentlemen and a deera for her. They are told to go bath but she is warned not to remove her clothes. “Our women don’t remove their clothes while showering,” one guard warned me. she says. That day she showered with her clothes on. She discovered shrapnel in her left shoulder and something coppery in her head.

Thus started their two year ordeal.

They were moved to a different camp. Then moved again. And again.

“I think we were moved a total of 27 times in the two years we were held captive.” She says.

The ringleader at some point got assassinated because of disagreements. The crazy driver was shot in the leg one evening after a spat with others. Months fell off calendars.  Seasons passed.

Back at Eka we move to the balcony lounge area overlooking the Southern Bypass. It’s a nippy morning. Muthoni sits near this beautiful potted plant that I have an urge to walk out of the hotel with. I wonder if security would notice. I think it would look great under my television set. We order hot dawas.

“Were you sexually molested?” I ask her.

“Thank God, I wasn’t.” she says. “But if I was going to raped it was going to be this very young guard who was very erratic and jumpy and wild. They kept changing guards though, and depending on how negotiations were going sometimes the guards would be very hostile other times they didn’t bother with us much, they smoked and chewed miraa.”

They bonded a lot, her and her two colleagues. They talked about their childhoods. They talked about their dreams. They talked about their upbringing and being Kenyans, they talked about politics. And they prayed a lot. “After one year, we realised that we were repeating our stories.” She laughs. They kept track of the days by counting.

As days and months passed they became more unsure about the outcome. Some days the guards would threaten them about how they would sell their organs to Yemen if the ransom didn’t come. Some days when the negotiations were going great in Nairobi they would be handed treats like tuna and biscuits. Other days the guards would threaten to sell them to Al Shabaab. “You never knew what to expect.” She says. One day they were brought a small transistor radio as a treat and they huddled around it listening to BBC. She remembers the rain and the feeling of renewal when it came down. She remembers looking at an odd flower that had grown in dry earth and wondering how something so beautiful would come out of something so barren and dead. “Nature speaks to you, when you listen.” She says.

“This is an odd question but is there something you miss about that ordeal?”

She looks up in thought for a moment. “When you have whole days to do nothing, you get to think a lot. We don’t know how to stay still in silence, we are always up and about. That period was marked with stillness and reflection and lots of prayer. I got very prayerful at that time.”

 

“There is a syndrome called the Stockholm syndrome,” I start. “This is when the hostage develops some sort of a psychological connection or affection towards their captors. Did this ever happen to you?”

Long pause.

“I don’t think it was a psychological connection, no, I wouldn’t call it that,” she creases her brows, “I think for me it was a very spiritual connection I had with God not my captors, but on a human level I sort of saw where these guys were coming from on a humanitarian level. It made me see their struggles as a nation, as clans and the key to it is the lack of education, the lack of any skill set for these people to live off. Then of course there is their wars. I don’t know…” She trails off.

““I wish I would have had a Bible, I would have read it twice over. They refused my colleague the Quran or us the Bible, they said we would use them for witchcraft.” I chuckle.

She sips her dawa.

“By the way, how did you manage your menses during this time? I mean you didn’t have sanitary pads, did you?”

“Well,” she says without any hint of hesitation. “First year wasn’t so bad, the negotiator would send me some but during the second year I would use bits of clothes sometimes cotton wool.”

They fell sick. One of them had constant asthmatic attacks and would wheeze through the night. She had back pains and bone problems- iron deficiency. They got typhoid. “If you take any medicine, somehow you recover.” She says with a smile. In one camp they had a small “shamba”, a small 1meter by 1 meter, they called it Baraka shamba, very little grew there, maybe it was symbolic. On her 36th birthday she remembers camels coming and refusing to leave the compound. During Ramadhan Abdinoor was allowed a clean set of cloths to pray in and to cook and they shared his food. Sometimes to feel connected to home they would pick discarded scraps of newspapers used to wrap miraa and read bits of the news off it. “That was our small link to home.” She says.

“Did you tire of praying, did you question God?” I ask.

“I somehow made some peace with it,” she tells me. “I figured God had allowed it and so my job was to wait it out, I wasn’t going to be the person who disrupts his plan and be the weak link. I was going to wait it out.”

“What’s your feeling towards the Somali community after this ordeal?” I ask.

She pauses for a long time, staring out at the lumbering tracks out on the bypass. My dawa is now tepid.

“I have mixed feelings…sometimes I have residual anger, but I can’t be angry at a community can I? I mean I have Somali friends and colleagues who I engage with in security forums. But sometimes the anger is there…” she says thoughtfully, then adds. “But then I look at the circumstances of the people of Somalia and I feel sorry for them. The boys who guarded us were kids picked from the village to earn a quick shilling. They are boys whose fathers had perhaps died in the war or in the inter-clan conflicts. These people need education, and resources to live on. They have none. I think it’s desperation that gives rise to very desperate actions.”

“If you were to do it all over again, would you allow it to happen to you?”

She sighs. “I might, but my family can’t. I wouldn’t put them through that again.”

These events that defined her mid-thirties have shaped many decisions she has had to make now on what she wants to do with her life. Her spirituality was deepened as a result of that experience, it became “more practical” and more “relationship oriented.”

She’s 41 now, studying for for her doctorate in disaster management and sustainability. She lectures. She works with children in Juvenile correction facilities on character development and life skills training. The trauma, she admits, doesn’t go away. The horror somehow stays with you. “It’s not over yet. Post-traumatic stress is not something that just goes away. I see it in my behaviour sometimes when I behave in a funny way,” she tells me. “This is not something that you get over, it’s not an event, and it’s a long process. We were counselled in a debriefing as individuals and as groups and I have gone for other therapy sessions and I’m still open to more.”

I ask her if she has forgiven those men.

“I did before we were released. I mentioned that sometimes we would be given a radio and we would always listen to BBC’s Outlook a program where people who have gone through horrendous experiences ten times worse than what we went through tell their stories.”

At her feet is a small bag which she tells me carries her mementos from the time they were in captivity. Would I like to see it?

“Of course” I say.

She removes another small gunny bag from it, one that she made herself while in Somalia. She holds up the cargo pants she wore when in captivity. It’s very old and frayed at the bottom. It has a colourful patch below the knee where she had mended the wear and tear using different pieces of cloth. Out comes an old grey t-shirt that she was wearing that fateful day. It has a big patch of dried blood on the left shoulder where the shrapnel had pierced her. There are pieces of her hair, a scarf, scraps from boxes of biscuits, tinned tuna, a Sportsman packet (“that’s all they smoked”).

“People looking at us now might think you are selling me old mtumba.” I say.

She laughs. “Or that I’m a mchawi.”

“You must have lost a great deal of weight.”

“Oh yeah, before I was captured I had been trying to lose weight. I was 69kgs but when we were released I was 49kgs!”

Lose up to 20kgs in Somalia, no pills, no exercise. Sign up now for great discounts. I think it. I don’t say it.

“Those chaps helped you,” I tell her. She chuckles and says sarcastically, “Oh they did.”

She holds up cardboard from a carton with a floor-plan created by punching holes with a needle.  “We would draw and plan our dream houses. This was mine.”

She removes what looks like a bandana for her hair. “Can I smell it?” I ask her. She hands it over and I take a lungful of it. I was hoping that I would smell something from that time; terror, dust from Somalia, fear, whatever, instead I smell something old, aged maybe, like old weave. I don’t know.

We have been speaking for over two hours and I’m dying to go home and have a hot shower because I somehow feel the dust of the story on me. And she has to go and run errands. Plus my phone is dying. I ask her what this experience means to her now. She leans back and says thoughtfully. “It means many things. It means that now I have learnt to focus on the big things, the things to spend my energy on. It means that I have a role to impact on lives in a greater way. It means that I’m now more aware of other things in life and I don’t take them for granted. Things like freedom, being able to do what you want to do anytime you want to do it. Things like a shower. Having sukuma-wiki. A roof. Having a fruit.”

“A fruit”.  I repeat and an image of an apple comes into my mind. A green apple with a little round sticker on it.

“These things are not owed to us,” she says. “They are not a guarantee.”

I’m looking for men and women in their 40s who have lived richly and are willing to unpack their lives for us to learn from. Know anyone like that? Or maybe you are the one? Please  email me on biko@bikozulu.co.ke

136 Responses
  • Merci Jowi
    27.06.2017

    What happened to you and chapos?




    3
    • Dee
      28.06.2017

      This feels like good foreplay without sex and a single orgasm. Too much suspense!!!!




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    • Jenny
      28.06.2017

      Good read, courage, prayer and the attitude one maintains when faced with adversity is always key.




      1
  • Dowt
    27.06.2017

    New Post!!!




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  • wabushes
    27.06.2017

    Somali Chapos?




    0
  • Elvis Mayaka
    27.06.2017

    this looks quite emotional ..




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  • Njuguna S
    27.06.2017

    What an experience …




    0
  • Wesh - Peter Wesh
    27.06.2017

    “These things are not owed to us. They are not a guarantee.” Think of the arrogance that sometimes we hold in life. Thinking that life owe’s us the good things only. This story is is more like a movie. Surreal. Hard to imagine getting a pause of two years of a life you have planned for 36 years. But again not really a pause. A disruption rather. Lessons by interruption. Her story is a really good perspective on why a roof, freedom to walk around in boxers- maybe – and sukuma wiki for supper with no guns pointed at you is reason enough to be thankful for life. Knowing that these things are not owed to us.
    Great read Biko.




    136
    • Kendi Mwenda
      28.06.2017

      WESH
      I SEE YOU.




      1
  • Emily
    27.06.2017

    It’s crazy how it’s primarily thought attrocities and peril that we are able to then put life in perspective. She was brave. Thank you for sharing her story with us




    11
    • Chrenyan
      28.06.2017

      “Months fell off calendars.”

      I see people asking about how Janet and Abdinoor and Kioko were released, what it felt like. I get what they’re saying but I think that is not the essence of the story, or of this series on 40s and over. I feel that the essence of the story is captured in this: “Months fell off calendars.”

      What an evocative sentence. That phrase has the capacity and the power inside of it to title a page-long piece, a chapter, or a book. There are far too many months falling off calendars, mine especially. Yes, the months are falling off my calendar, and I’m not even in captivity. Maybe that is the problem – I am not in captivity. Or I am in captivity of a different kind – the gilded cage, so to speak. The one with carpeted office floors. The one where we write emails – as Biko says – that end with the phrase “Kind regards.”

      Maybe if the months fell off my calendar somewhere where there were no carpets, and there weren’t regards of any kind, or emails, for that matter, or where there were regards, yes, but not the kind type… maybe after a few such months, the months would cease to fall from my calendar.

      I think that is what Biko is trying to say with this piece, and with the entire over-40s series.

      Congratulations Dr. Janet Muthoni Kanga. It will happen, if it hasn’t already.




      22
  • Julius
    27.06.2017

    Humanity vs humanity… Why so cruel?




    1
  • Miss Nyambura
    27.06.2017

    You are a strong amazing woman!




    6
  • Wahu Kariuki
    27.06.2017

    What an experience? Surely the things we take for granted. How were they rescued? Was the ransom paid and how much?




    5
    • Qui
      27.06.2017

      I was going to ask the exact same thing…. I wish she shared a bit on the emotions that they went through as they got rescued and travelled home. e.t.c




      4
    • Njeri
      27.06.2017

      It would have added to the story; but I’m not sure if she and the other captives were privy to the details of ransom. Typically those would be handled by the negotiators. And the governments are always reluctant to disclose amounts or details, for fear that it will embolden the pirates.




      0
  • Blair
    27.06.2017

    This story makes you realize how many things you have taken for granted, or how you take life its self for granted.
    this is totally a great read but i still have questions, questions like;

    – When was she set free?
    – how was that day? did they make a file to the car? did they walk?
    – how much was their ransom?
    – did she go back to her old job when released?
    – does she still go to the field or does it terrify her?

    I could ask follow up question all day, but she has been very brave to share such an ordeal that i will let her be…
    Thank you for sharing…




    65
    • Lydia
      27.06.2017

      Same questions came to mind




      1
    • Jess
      27.06.2017

      The same questions are bugging me. I had to re read the article to see if I had missed anything




      1
    • Carolyn
      28.06.2017

      Only photos can express what it was like. We were there to receive Janet. It was such a moment for the family members. Don’t take any moment for granted.




      2
    • Flo Kiambi
      29.06.2017

      What happened to Ahmed? Did he recover after being shot at or he succumbed to injuries?

      Biko please answer these questions.




      0
      • bikozulu
        30.06.2017

        I’m told he died recently. RIP.




        1
    • Lg
      29.06.2017

      What about Ahmed?




      1
  • Rael
    27.06.2017

    Letting God be God in everything…“I figured God had allowed it and so my job was to wait it out, I wasn’t going to be the person who disrupts his plan and be the weak link. I was going to wait it out.”
    http://www.shesatomboy.com




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    • Jane
      28.06.2017

      This part for me was the most sobering. Knowing that God had allowed it and having the wisdom not to distrupt Him.




      1
  • PK
    27.06.2017

    Nice read, Would have loved to know how they were rescued.




    1
  • Kellyy
    27.06.2017

    wanted to be first to comment. lol




    1
  • Gerard N
    27.06.2017

    Another great piece Biko…This defines what a terrifying experience is and can’t wish it on anyone…but it’s also good she draws strength from the ordeal.




    0
  • tom osanjo
    27.06.2017

    Biko this reminds me of a time my photographer Ramadhan Khamis (the coolest man with the lens I have ever met) and I ran into an ambush in Mogadishu. We were headed to the spot where some journalists had been killed by a Somali mob years earlier (the backdrop to the movie Blackhawk Down).
    Then began the long haggling between our guards and the would be captors. Our captors believed our employer would part with a huge ransom failure to which they would just shoot us dead.
    That should remain the scariest moment of my life although they later let us go. Funny thing is that Rama was busy taking pictures all this time totally unfazed by what was happening. Muthoni’s story is sad and exposes the dangers aid workers go through every day. Wish her well




    32
    • Brian Malenya
      27.06.2017

      Tom, every time these stories pop up, I remember your narration about Rama Khamis




      2
    • bumblebee
      27.06.2017

      Hahahaha
      Creatives will never miss an opportunity. Reminds of ule photographer wa westgate. When people were being rescued and running out he was running in following the terrorists who were shooting everyone on sight




      3
    • Njeri
      28.06.2017

      Tom kindly share the link of Rama’s story




      0
  • Ess
    27.06.2017

    I may not be where I want to be but stories like this one give me a million reasons to be thankful and to try again. I am inspired by the faith that she exuded. This is a horrendous story that is full of hope than it is with despair.




    13
    • Nava
      27.06.2017

      exactly Ess; they help make me realize that as long as I’m still living; then it’s all still possible nonetheless life shouldn’t come to a halt




      0
  • Switch
    27.06.2017

    life has its own way of course correction.




    0
  • Oyite Ojok
    27.06.2017

    Education has always been and will always be the only tool for change whether social, cultural, political or economic. It’s gives you new perspective of things.




    3
  • Reney
    27.06.2017

    It’s about time you get a power bank Bikozulu, these power banks come in handy. We don’t want you cutting short an engaging story just because your phone is dying *wink*
    Amazing read as always. i love the part where she says *wait it out and a weak link*




    20
    • Kate
      28.06.2017

      Like seriously he needs a power bank. Even sonko walks with his in hand everywhere he goes




      2
    • Nancy Karimi
      11.09.2017

      Perfect gift for his birthday..just deliver!




      0
  • Benson
    27.06.2017

    Freedom, the one thing we take for granted and something that makes a whole lot of difference in our societies. This must have been quite the experience.




    2
  • Mercy Mutiga
    27.06.2017

    Biko,
    Before even reading this post, I had to hit the ‘Love icon’ first. Perhaps coz of the complacency filled in me that everything from Biko is a story.
    I went thro’ the story though..
    and by the way, are you brave enough to go there? Not me




    1
  • Gerald
    27.06.2017

    “Did you have this natural hair then?” I ask her.
    “No,” she says, “a weave.”
    I successfully resist the urge to roll my eyes.
    Biko!!!! Hahahah




    3
  • charlie
    27.06.2017

    what of the ransom?day of release?…how was the ordeal,albeit,a great piece




    2
    • charlie
      27.06.2017

      This story reminds me of the best jet fighter of our time,the BEST that kdf will always remember who was the first soldier to set fought in somali during the operation ‘linda nchi’.major JONATHAN OTONGO who went MIA on the 4th of December 2014 in the enemies territory




      2
  • Anne Komen
    27.06.2017

    Biko I think we should changa and buy you another phone and power bank maybe… you seem to always have your phone on low battery during interviews.
    This is a really touching experience for Muthoni, I was reading on waiting to read all about how they escaped because to me I felt like it was a movie. For someone to go through that for two years! Man I’m angry at this world, why is it unfair to some people?
    I’m glad that we are fortunate enough in Kenya to have a good education and that we are not idling. Time wasted idling usually leads to a lot of untold characters…
    I’m glad she got through it and through it all she became victorious.




    12
  • Mwarí
    27.06.2017

    Muthoni, I remember her from church. On one new year’s service, she told us how they had escaped a dangerous situation. Next time I heard, she had been captured. We had been praying for her for two years. I still remember the day she was released. I love her soul and reflection in this story. Such resilience!




    9
  • Kisenya Jesse
    27.06.2017

    Two years in the hands of pirates and in a foreign country. Must have been tough. The negotiators did some good job in as much as it took them 2 years to have the group set free. Wait, Ahmed was shot….what happened to him, Biko?




    1
    • Susan
      28.06.2017

      And quite tough too for family and loved ones!




      0
  • Nyakio.
    27.06.2017

    Two years being held as captives in Somali land is no joke. She is a strong woman, for the memories unbelievable. Did Ahmed die? We all need to Thank God for the gift of Life, it’s not that we are special but it’s because of His love and mercy.
    Live long Biko, What a great read!




    1
  • Maggie
    27.06.2017

    ” These things are not owed to us. They are not a guarantee” and “We don’t know how to stay still in silence” These statements cover everything…




    4
  • TheBlackKennedy
    27.06.2017

    I like how the shift in tense of the prose is introduced

    …. (Please allow me to change the tense here because shit is about to go down and past tense can’t hack it)….

    Made me think of the tempo shift in that Les Wa Nyika song “Afro wa Kirinyaga”

    Great read.

    Cheers




    5
    • Susan
      28.06.2017

      LOL…exactly, Afro wa Kirinyaga Sagana




      0
    • Nancy Karimi
      11.09.2017

      LOL..made me google that old classic!




      0
  • Aly
    27.06.2017

    How we take things for granted! This is so horrific…midway I had to keep reminding myself that she made it through.




    2
  • TheBlackKennedy
    27.06.2017

    …. Lose up to 20kgs in Somalia, no pills, no exercise. Sign up now for great discounts. I think it. I don’t say it…

    Really Dude?




    4
  • sk
    27.06.2017

    ..things are not owed to us. They are not a guarantee…

    Nice read




    2
  • Redempta Bisangwa
    27.06.2017

    hhahaha only thing missing was the african drums, Hillarious!! lovely story




    1
  • wa Nyaga
    27.06.2017

    Such a piece, from a story about the beautiful Kilimanjaro to captivity- my the shift, the drift…!




    1
  • KIMUTAI
    27.06.2017

    Those who have seen war, will never stop seeing it. In the silence of the night, They will always hear the screams

    Thanks Biko




    5
  • Wanga
    27.06.2017

    Yes..what happened to Ahmed? Is it a mattter of space Biko? You left out lots in that story. Like the day they were released…..




    2
  • Metumi
    27.06.2017

    Let’s buy biko a power bank




    1
  • Betty
    27.06.2017

    That arrogant translator was right, she should write a book.
    I have so many unanswered questions e.g. how did they finally get out? what happened to Ahmed?




    3
  • mospet sasa
    27.06.2017

    Waaat?? scary like a somali pirate. please can I do a movie outa this live script? may the Lord bless Somalia with peace, love and unity, or it will be another Kenya. sijui.




    0
  • Malaika
    27.06.2017

    That battery thing…Grrr… totally annoying… Biko battery packs help you know…




    2
  • Phoebe Mungai
    27.06.2017

    We find God in our pain like she did, and that reminds us that no matter what, he will hold us when everything else fails. Nice read Biko.




    3
  • Purey
    27.06.2017

    You have a remarkable ability to never squander an opportunity to throw jabs at a weave.




    4
  • Githogori
    27.06.2017

    Somalia is gone




    1
  • jusilmus
    27.06.2017

    For such a story, you have nothing to say except to sigh and reflect!!!!




    2
  • Elvira
    27.06.2017

    We sure take so many things for granted. Good writeup!




    1
  • Grace Yaa
    27.06.2017

    What happened to the weave though? How did they get back home?
    How can I get in touch with her Biko?

    Lovely read.




    0
  • anthony
    27.06.2017

    What a brave woman, to rebuild her life after such an ordeal. We have a responsibility to spread education, peace, resources and dignity not only in Somalia but also in our country, right here at home – in the slum areas as well in the far flung frontiers




    0
  • Sophia Ngugi
    27.06.2017

    This post… reading it I am left with no words to express the feeling I get. Wooh. Wooh. This was such an experience, tough experience. I am happy she has been able to look at a positive aspect of the captivity and lived to tell the story.




    1
  • Rowsemary
    27.06.2017

    “Lose up to 20kgs in Somalia, no pills, no exercise. Sign up now for great discounts” hahhahhahha
    Biko your prowess in maintaining humor in such stories amazes me.

    What happened to Ahmed lakini?




    2
  • Luke
    27.06.2017

    Get a new phone.




    0
  • Qui
    27.06.2017

    Sooo many emotions after reading this piece…But emotions aside, I think you need a power bank… it’s getting serious… Also, is there part B where she tells us how they were rescued and if they all made it home.




    1
    • Lydia
      04.07.2017

      I think part B comes in the book the translator recommended she write




      0
  • Kami
    27.06.2017

    Never take anything for granted. Thank you for your story Janet…




    0
  • Abdullah omar
    27.06.2017

    They had a human face.a jacket with lice!




    1
  • wa doubleT
    27.06.2017

    We never know the value of freedom until we loose it….Great piece as always




    1
  • Boaz
    27.06.2017

    Clearly there’s a God in heaven who is our shield and protector.




    2
  • Cagholine
    27.06.2017

    This is quite an Eye-opener. Thanks Biko!




    0
  • Maureen
    27.06.2017

    You didn’t finish the story, how were they rescued?




    1
  • Nkatha
    27.06.2017

    Oh, wow!! This has taught me to not fret the small things in life.




    1
  • Jules
    27.06.2017

    This has been a good read…but you left the readers in suspense, the release from captivity, what happened to her colleagues, the ransom???
    Nothing is owed to us, it is by grace we have all we got but we still take it for granted.




    2
  • Johnson
    27.06.2017

    Freedom is precious………..
    #lesson learnt




    0
  • Nelly Gee
    27.06.2017

    “Ladies and gentlemen,” he announced in his silky captain’s voice, “you are now on top of Africa.” I swear what was missing were African drums. The view below, by Jove! It was a fine time to be on top of Africa and to be an African. The detour lasted almost 20mins and as he slowly twisted that bird and curved away from the mountain, away from the small craters and the clouds now lit orange by the rising sun, and the icecaps, he said almost ruefully, “Oh well, we will start descending into Nairobi any moment now, please don’t forget to collect your Kili summit certificates from the cabin crew.” And everybody laughed and clapped.




    1
  • Esther
    27.06.2017

    That’s 2 years of someone’s life. This is a huge test. A test of slowing down to a halt that many of us would not pass. Whoa!
    loved the Kilimanjaro bit too.




    1
  • Njoki
    27.06.2017

    Be thankful of every second or millisecond of freedom.. it is so precious. Janet has come out strong in this nightmare. May u continue gaining strength day by day.

    Biko kindly get a power bank..




    2
  • Emmy Buyaki
    27.06.2017

    Wow! Today’s learning is never take freedom for granted.
    #proudtobeKenyan




    1
  • MuthoniM
    27.06.2017

    Great read,lots of respect for Muthoni,thanks Biko




    1
    • Suleiman
      27.06.2017

      I almost thought you are that Muthoni…




      0
  • Jeremy
    27.06.2017

    Nice read biko. You need to buy a powerbank even if its the china ones. How can your battery be dying towards the end of all the interviews? I bet thats what made you end the interview too soon before she told us how she was rescued.




    0
  • Keymoney
    27.06.2017

    I have always wanted to know how ransom are delivered or rather sent. I would have really wanted to know that. Its a great read though




    0
  • Sabby
    27.06.2017

    I met Muthoni a few months after she was released, I hope someday she’ll fully heal from that experience… being a humanitarian is a calling…no amount of money can compensate for such an experience…thank God they made it out… some have not been as lucky…




    1
  • Lilo
    27.06.2017

    Biko, please meet Muthoni again and finish the story please. And don’t forget to charge your phone……
    Nice read as always.




    1
  • James
    27.06.2017

    Her subconcious question/ thoughts on how somali women lived as well as her wish to loose weight actually made me reflect on the many ”silent prayers” we may make on our day today lives hoping to get answers on a certain common way but God has a different way of giving us the answers we seek but on a different way. She is a heroine in her own unique way in overcoming the challenges she went through and what she os currently doing to empower communities. Cheers to her.




    2
  • Njeri
    27.06.2017

    May be it is because I read her story when it was published in the Nation after their release 3 years ago.
    This account was a deja vu for me…
    That said, it does not in any way lessen the intensity of what Janet and her colleagues went through. I agree with others that it would have been great to know details of release…, if those are available.




    0
  • DAUDI
    28.06.2017

    That is a knocking point in life. Where against your will you are forced to halt, take a reflection (in this case a ghastly terror filled one) and evaluate where your will stands. But it all boils down to the simple yet mysterious fact; that you are not alone. A bigger unseen power that is gentle and merciful lurks behind our shoulders. To see us to the next prose of life; misery, joy, death, pain, uncertainty, doubt, success, more misery et al in any order. All we have to do is keep the engine running. In every stage of life that we are in!




    0
  • Kui
    28.06.2017

    I have tried and tried to relate to this story but I feel too removed from it.
    Like am too privileged to pretend I understand being captured.
    Am sorry Muthoni.
    And you are such a brave soul!




    0
  • Isabelle
    28.06.2017

    “Ladies and gentlemen,” he announced in his silky captain’s voice, “you are now on top of Africa.” I swear what was missing were African drums….love it! I even got goose bumps.

    Africa is a great continent…war is so disruptive, kills innocence and any sense of goodness in us. I’m glad Muthoni and her colleagues are safe and sound. Very tough ordeal…and the war is not over. We gotta to keep praying.




    0
  • JayT
    28.06.2017

    There should be a part II to this story. This should be a book like the pirate said




    0
  • kioi
    28.06.2017

    What an experience.Thank God Muthoni lived to tell her story.Not all captives live to tell theirs.




    1
  • Winnie Akinyi
    28.06.2017

    This story is really authentic, I should tell my aunt to get in touch, if you are still receiving new interwiewees. Perhaps she can talk about her achievements as a single woman. She started hustling when she was only 19 years and she’s now 48. She’s been through waves and valleys.




    1
    • Gakii
      30.06.2017

      I’ve not seen them in Kenyan stores yet




      0
  • MO Kei RA
    28.06.2017

    Nice read

    I’m curious to know how long she had the weave on two years? No?




    1
  • Miriam Mwangi
    29.06.2017

    You are such a Kenyan! Your phone dying.
    I love this parts. They speak deep down to my heart.
    “When you have whole days to do nothing, you get to think a lot. We don’t know how to stay still in silence, we are always up and about. That period was marked with stillness and reflection and lots of prayer. I got very prayerful at that time.”

    And
    ” It means many things. It means that now I have learnt to focus on the big things, the things to spend my energy on. It means that I have a role to impact on lives in a greater way. It means that I’m now more aware of other things in life and I don’t take them for granted. Things like freedom, being able to do what you want to do anytime you want to do it. Things like a shower. Having sukuma-wiki. A roof. Having a fruit.”




    0
  • Vi Joy
    29.06.2017

    Such an inspiring story brought to me on my birthday (never mind I had to come back 2 days later to comment, I mean who wants to be on the keyboard on their bornday). She is such a brave Lady!




    0
  • churchill salmon
    29.06.2017

    So emotional even though Biko has away to make it flowing and your phone battery is always dying…………….noted many times




    0
  • joseph
    29.06.2017

    God please help tour people




    0
  • Tess
    29.06.2017

    What an experince




    0
  • mike
    29.06.2017

    Well done great job




    0
  • kochola
    29.06.2017

    I love the article and the website output




    0
  • psri
    29.06.2017

    Great will be passing by …




    0
  • meshack
    29.06.2017

    its difficult for family and their loved ones. great article




    0
  • Salome Mutua
    30.06.2017

    Lose up to 20kgs in Somalia, no pills, no exercise. Sign up now……Hahaaaa
    A great excerpt. I love you Biko




    0
  • Beatrice
    30.06.2017

    Emotional story. We prayed for Jane and God answered. Thankful.




    0
  • Michael Wangai
    30.06.2017

    An interesting article




    0
  • Martin
    30.06.2017

    “These things are not owed to us,” she says. “They are not a guarantee.” soo true.




    0
  • Gakii
    30.06.2017

    Robbed of 2 years of her life and she forgave! WOW
    THAT is gracious.

    This 40s people series is very enlightening. THANKYOU BIKO <3




    0
  • Allantez
    01.07.2017

    I literally shed tears when reading this article….




    0
  • Esther
    01.07.2017

    Great read as always




    0
  • sam
    01.07.2017

    Nice Article




    0
  • Bren
    01.07.2017

    There are things in life that change your perspective on alot of things forever. I would presume that such an ordeal could possibly teach one not to fuss about anything when its not working for them because there is more to life than making a big deal out of every small thing. It’s a riveting story, reminds me of how I faced 7 armed men who broke into my house one cold June last year, in the wee morning hours. Your life hangs before you so precariously,nothing matters,even the things they are robbing you of. When your life is spared in the midst of such trauma, you never recover fully, you only learn to cope! She’s very brave I must say! I pray you get over the post traumatic stress and keep making the difference you are.




    1
  • John
    02.07.2017

    Very interesting,job well done




    0
  • Neno
    03.07.2017

    Too many questions come to mind.




    0
  • The beauty of experiences​ like this is that they shape us. They influence our thoughts, our views, how we look at life, and many other things. They make us hold on to the things that matter and let the things that don’t pass by without paying them much attention. I can remember the author Chimamanda Adichie saying that the kidnapping of her father had made her know the things that mattered to her and the things that don’t. Experiences shape us.

    Thanks for sharing your story with us, Madame. I’m enjoying this 40’s series, Biko.




    1
  • Geraldine
    08.07.2017

    Smart thinnikg – a clever way of looking at it.




    0
  • Brandie
    08.07.2017

    Kndgweole wants to be free, just like these articles!




    0
  • Kaylin
    08.07.2017

    Just cause it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s not super heulpfl.




    0
  • Tim
    08.07.2017

    Quite an experience, and very well narrated too.




    0
  • Angy O.
    13.07.2017

    Biko your ADD is nice, it helps diffuse tension when one is deeply engrossed. I don’t know if I’d be sane after the ordeal of it were me. But God’s grace, it’s always sufficient.




    0
  • Almasi
    18.07.2017

    “I successfully resist the urge to roll my eyes”..yeah, I hear you brother!




    0
  • Clinton
    18.07.2017

    Very traumatizing. Only imaginable.




    0

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