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Meru family seeks help to raise bail for kin held in Indian prison

CHARLES WANYOROBy CHARLES WANYORO
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Ms Zipporah Nkatha stares pensively as a group of people going about their business walk past her, too engrossed in her thoughts to notice them. Despair is etched on her face.

The middle-aged casual worker, who paints houses and washes clothes, fights back tears as she narrates her 20-month-long wait to see her son who is held in an Indian prison for trafficking miraa.

The mother’s despair was made worse after her son, Richard Koome, 27, called home saying he was sick with a swollen leg.

“I feel heartbroken and nothing matters anymore. I have reached a dead end; no one hears my cry anymore,” she mutters.

Desperate to get him bailed out of Taloja Central Prison, a high security facility holding some of the country’s hardened criminals, the family held a fundraiser on Sunday, hoping to raise Sh1 million but only managed a paltry 30,000.

HARAMBEE SNUBBED

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The harambee, held at Maili Tatu, had been the culmination of elaborate plans where key politicians and miraa businessmen from Meru, mainly from Nyambene, had been invited.

A team had earlier traversed the larger Igembe mobilising support and inviting members for the fundraiser.

“No one showed up despite the assurances that they would grace the event. Only a few residents attended. We had targeted Sh1 million but only managed to get Sh30,000,” said Joseph Mung’athia who was involved in the publicity.

The family had in 2018 held another harambee but only a few close relatives and friends showed up.

Ms Nkatha says she resorted to the funds drive after unsuccessfully trying various channels to have her son repatriated.

She acknowledges the efforts of Igembe South MP John Paul Mwirigi, who raised the matter in Parliament, but says the vigour with which he had taken up the matter has since died.

MP’S PROMISES

“I have been calling him but he doesn’t pick my calls anymore. He had raised the matter in Parliament and promised to help bring him back,” she said.

However, in a phone conversation, Mr Mwirigi said he is still pursuing the matter but is disappointed that the issue has been politicised.

“There was an audio that was being circulated which made me feel bad since it was criticising my efforts. I appreciate that they are seeking help elsewhere … That’s why I decided to go slow since it is a family decision and it has to be respected,” said the MP.

He said he had talked to the Foreign Affairs ministry and is looking for a person who can stand surety for Mr Koome once granted bail.

Mr Koome was arrested at an airport in Mumbai, India, while allegedly trying to smuggle in 66 kilos of miraa which is regarded as a narcotic drug in the country.

When he travelled, he left a young wife, then six months pregnant, and was hopeful of a life changing venture.