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Kidnapped or rescued? American couple legal battle over boy’s custody intensifies

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A three-year-old boy taken away by the government from an American couple that had adopted him has exposed a glaring gap on inter-country adoption laws in Kenya.

The State put a moratorium on foreign adoption five years ago.

To date, the whereabouts of the boy, who is epileptic, are not known since 13 officers from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) raided Matt and Daisy Mazzoncini’s house in Westlands, Nairobi, and took custody of the child.

That was on April 5 when the DCI tweeted about the raid only to pull down the post a day later.

There is a vicious battle in court over the boy’s legal guardians.

“Detectives acting on information worked around the clock to rescue three-year-old baby Kiano from American citizens Matthew Mazzoncini and Daisy Mazzoncini who had planned to travel with the baby back to the US,” said the DCI at the time.

The Mazzoncinis claim the State kidnapped their child. However, the government says it rescued a child who was about to be trafficked to the US.

In its court submissions, the government says the case is a matter of national security.

It is, however, not clear why the government took custody of the child despite two court orders granting guardianship of the child to the couple and another one that allowed them to travel with the boy to the US for medical attention.

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CHILD WELFARE

The Child Welfare Society of Kenya (CWSK) has filed a case in court arguing that the claim that the baby is sick to warrant treatment abroad is frivolous.

“The child in this matter is alleged to be ill and the proposed interested party finds these ailments are typical and common for children below five years and that they are treatable locally,” says CWSK through their lawyer Victor Rapando.

CWSK claims follow a ruling by Hon Mary Otindo, the senior resident magistrate at the Children’s Court in February last year, that allowed the couple to travel to the US with the minor.

Away from court, this ignited a chain of reactions that ended with the baby being taken away three weeks ago.

Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani waded into the issue, asking the Immigration department to stop any attempt by Ms Daisy Mazzoncini to leave the country.

“It is important to note that all the procedural motion of guardianship was flouted through what appears to be a conspiracy of a cabal of networks,” said the CS in a letter to Immigration principal secretary Gordon Kihalangwa on November 18.

“It is my hope that you will employ appropriate intervention to stop the named to leave the country till the determination of the ongoing matter that is being handled by the department of child welfare of this ministry,” he said.

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LEGAL GUARDIANS

The matter the CS was referring to is a court case filed by the Child Welfare Society challenging a ruling by Hon Otindo that granted the Mazzoncinis permission to seek medical help outside the country for the baby.

It was after this that Ms Mazzoncini’s work permit was revoked. Then accusations and counter-accusations between the State and her family began in court.

Ms Mazzoncini, who is a dual American and British citizen, came to Kenya in 2016. She signed up as a volunteer at the Mogra Soul Winner Rescue Centre in Muthaiga. Her husband, who is a former senior executive of Starbucks, has been in and out of Kenya several times. They have been married for nine years.

The two became legal guardians of the child on April 3, 2017 through an order by Ms Otindo, who was then the senior resident magistrate of the Children’s Court. The child in question was discovered in a plastic bag in Kiambu outside the Kirima Tent of Prayer in Ruii together with another baby believed to be his brother in January 2016. The other baby died soon after.

The surviving boy was adopted by the Mogra Soul Winner Rescue Centre. The children’s home gave custody of the child to Ms Mazzoncini on December 6, 2016, according to documents regarding the case which we have seen.

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According to an affidavit by Ms Mazzoncini, the child has been in and out of hospital and has incurred bills amounting to Sh700,000, which she has paid with her husband. In addition, she claims that they followed the right procedure in getting guardianship of the child.

“We sought legal counsel from our former advocate Mr Elvis Abuga who informed us of the current moratorium against foreign adoption and advised us to file for legal guardianship which will allow us to have 100 per cent parental responsibilities over the minor therein,” she says.

Whether the Children’s Court was right in granting guardianship of the boy to the couple is a question the current case at the High Court will seek to answer. The case is up for hearing on May 8.

source:nation.co.ke

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Business

Keeping our family coffee business picking

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When 41 -year-old Gitau Waweru Karanja was a boy, he recalls spending his school holidays in his grandfather’s coffee farm with his cousins. His late grandmother would push them to pick berries to earn pocket money. Though he took up his parents’ passion in interior design and studied Interior Design in Kwa Zulu Natal University in South Africa, he did he know that one day he would wake up and smell the coffee and participate in running his grandfather’s coffee farm.

Gitau is the third generation of his family to manage Karunguru Farm, which belonged to his late grandfather Geoffrey Kareithi. Kareithi had bought the 300-acre farm in Ruiru, from a white settler in 1972. Gitau is married to Wangeci Gitau who grew up in Maragwa, in Murang’a where they also had a coffee farm.

Values instilled

For Wangeci, despite growing up in the coffee fields, she was more passionate about tourism and was a travel consultant before becoming a tour manager at a local company.

In 2012, she got an ectopic pregnancy, which put her on bed rest and thus was compelled to quit her job. When she recovered, she began assisting her husband. “By that time, my husband was selling modern house doors, but the business took a while to pick. Then we began selling milk from Karunguru Farm, but the milk production went down in 2016. The management, comprising of family members, told us to address the issue by becoming dairy managers. But when we joined the management of Karunguru Farm, we saw an opportunity in coffee tours,” she says.

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Taking cue from South Africa where they do wine tourism and also export wine, Gitau and his wife sought to use that knowledge in their coffee farm. “We started Karunguru Coffee and Tours after we found out that despite it being our main export, it was being underutilised when it comes to tourism. So, here we take visitors through the journey that coffee has to go through before getting to your cup,” explains Gitau. Everything is done in Karunguru Farm— including value addition such as processing coffee, drying and even roasting. “We have our very own packaged Karunguru Coffee, which is available in the market,” he adds.

Their late grandfather instilled in them a love for each other and every holiday it is the family culture to meet and bond as a family. The grandpa also ensured that the farm management is shared amongst all his seven children who meet every week to discuss the business of the farm. Once they come to an unanimous decision, it is then passed on to their children, who implements their decision.

Before one is given any role, you have _ . to be qualified for the position. “It’s not about being favoured, but your qualification. I am in tourism, so I handle the tourism aspect, my husband is in operations. In fact, one applies for the position and then you are interviewed. If you qualify, you are placed on probation until the management is satisfied that you can handle the role well,” says Wangeci.

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No entitlement

What makes family business go down is the fact that people who are less qualified are employed. Other people have to cover up for their messes and this creates bitterness and conflict. Gitau sometimes watches his nephews and nieces in the farm, giving them roles to check out whether they have interest in the farm or not before beginning to mentor them. Everyone begins from the lowest level and must know how to roast, pack, as well as prepare a cup of Karunguru coffee. This is to en inculcate the spirit of appreciation and value for the workers employed to do the role.

“My uncles always tell us that we didn’t come in the business because we are their children, but because of the passion we had in the business. With that, entitlement is killed and we ensure that we do our best to take the farm to higher levels,” says Gitau

They don’t entertain gossip,  ‘‘ but if someone has an issue, I then the person is invited ‘ to a meeting where one is confronted and told in love where they have missed the mark.

by PD.co.ke

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Lifestyle

How we solved thorny issues in our not-so-rosy union

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Robert Wambugu and Lucy Wambui’s marriage has been a bitter-sweet experience. When their firstborn son was a toddler, he almost drowned in a basin full of water.

“The water had been stored on the corridor and the young boy sneaked out of the house. Within a split of a second, he had fallen head first and was in there for almost a minute before we were alerted by other children. He passed out, but was saved by quick intervention from a nearby hospital,” Lucy says.

Lucy says they faced a lot of challenges driven by their lack of marriage experience due to their young age. She was 20, Robert was 21. “We had not received proper counselling and did not know how to handle our personality differences. Let’s just say we were clueless of what was ahead of us. We used to have endless arguments, long weeks without speaking to each other and so on. It wasn’t until we got support from a neighbour who cared and counselled us,” she says.

Making it work

They worked on improving their communication and openness to each other. She offers: “We started giving each other constructive feedback that builds someone rather than hurt them emotionally. We stopped pointing fingers at faults and started addressing the issue rather than attacking the person. For instance, Robert was forgetful. At first, this used to make me think he was deliberately ignoring me and I would choose to just stay quiet and ‘payback’. But one time he told me he would start working on a “To do list” and once he started it, I saw great improvement. He also asked me to be sending him reminders on pending stuff. This way, we were able to handle that issue once and for all. On the other hand, I would prepare food that he didn’t like and he would not eat it. I would feel like he was eating elsewhere. At one time, I asked him to recommend what he prefers and how he liked it made. It took time to understand and master this, but it was worth it.”

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Lucy and Robert also worked on their decision-making, as well as teamwork, and from that point things changed for the better.

Other challenges have arisen when they had to juggle between work and raising children. “Sometimes as a working parent, you realise you have to spend time with your children and establish a personal connection. For me, this is important and if I have to work from home to do this, I do not mind doing so. But it can be quite overwhelming,” she adds.

Lucy and Robert both live in Rwanda. They have been married for 11 years and have three children-two boys, Arthur aged 10, Fabrice aged seven and a girl, Ashe Wambui aged 1.5 years. Lucy runs a cake business while Robert works as a Certified Hospitality Training Manager at Marriot International, and is also an experienced digital marketer and art director. She is also a co-director at Halleria Consult, a marketing consulting agency they started together with her husband. He is the country manager in charge of overall operations of the consultancy.

They also mentor young couples on marriage and parenting.

Lucy terms her husband as her greatest support system. “He has been supportive in raising the children. He spends his free time with them. On the other hand, when we visit our parents in Nairobi, we ensure that the children spend time with their grandparents. I get tips from our parents from both sides and I ensure they communicate as often so that they build that bond. I have also taken part in a programme called ‘Mother of Sons’ that focuses on mothers who are raising boys. It gives mums the space to learn how to handle boys’ challenges as well as bringing up men who are well nurtured,” she says.

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Discovering children’s potential

Their parenting approach is centred on raising children who understand between right and wrong and are able to make independent and right choices. Lucy is a disciplinarian. “I don’t shy away from using the rod where necessary. But I spend time trying to find effective non-authoritarian ways to help mentor them, especially in matters self-confidence and life skills,” she reveals.

Her husband, however, uses a different approach. He uses experiential learning techniques where through observation, he has identified some interests in them. Both boys love using 3D modelling software and have basic photography skills. He spends time training them. “We thank God that this strategy has helped them learn and be responsible. We also encourage them to go out and play and develop a social life. The first one is an extrovert. He makes friends quite easily while the second one is an introvert who prefers staying indoors. The last one is starting the ‘terrible two phase’, always throwing tantrums,” Lucy says.

Lucy’s word of advise to couples and parents is: “Love, support your spouse and walk with them. You don’t get into a relationship to attain happiness. Rather make it your role to create an environment that sustains joy. If this is done, it’s easier to get the other person to reciprocate. Before you point fingers at your spouse, first do a self-analysis and see what you would do to work on yourself and improve. That way, we shall have happier relationships.”

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By PD.co.ke

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Lifestyle

Things get thick in Thika: Missing millionaire was heavily indebted

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The missing Thika businessman Julius Gitau was heavily indebted and going through a marital problem when he mysteriously disappeared, the Nation has learnt.

With creditors breathing down his neck, auctioneers knocking on his doors and a marriage on the rocks, the trader rushed to his mother on September 20 for emotional support when everything around him seemed to be falling apart.

The Covid-19 pandemic had affected his businesses as sales had dipped by over 70 per cent due to the tough restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the virus.

At home, things were also getting out of control due to bad blood between his first love Lucy Wahu and her co-wives, Rachel Muthoni and Celina Nelly.

“Gitau told me that he was having problems with his suppliers. Five firms had even started sending auctioneers to his two general merchandise shops in Thika town, an issue that had embarrassed him. My son was going through mental torture,” Ms Rosemary Wanjiru, 68, told the Nation at her Kaharati home in Murang’a yesterday.

Some of the suppliers had even repossessed their stock and pressure was mounting on him to pay up or face legal action.

“Proud and stubborn, my son hates any form of embarrassment and has a very dry sense of humour, that’s why those public tiffs with creditors were taking a toll on his mental health,” said Ms Wanjiru.

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Gitau then left his mother’s home at midnight, promising to call in the morning, but her maternal instincts kept her awake throughout.

“His confessions troubled me. I thought of selling part of our family land so Gitau could settle some of his most pressing debts. I called him at around 7.30am and we spoke for a few minutes. I cannot tell whether he was in his second or first wife’s home, or elsewhere. I wish I had asked him because this would have given us a starting point in this long and anxious search for him,” she said.

Suicide note

Earlier, Gitau had taken his second wife Muthoni to Nakuru to inspect one of his farms.

“He showed Muthoni a piece of land he had bought for her. He later visited his third wife, Nelly, in Ithanga village. I tried to convince him to spend the night with us but he refused as he wanted to brief her on her properties, before heading back to Maporomoko Estate in Thika to Wahu,” said Ms Wanjiru.

“He shared briefly that Wahu was giving him problems owing to the family wealth share ratio but I told him to use dialogue and compromises to settle the matter,” she added.

The following day, Wahu and her nephew, Geoffrey Wachira, reported to police at around 4pm that the trader was missing and had left behind a suicide note that indicated he had lost hope in life. They gave Gitau’s age as 60, yet he is 44 years.

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Wahu said she was with Gitau in one of the Thika shops at around 9.30am when he allegedly left for the gym in an old truck that he later abandoned near Blue Post Hotel at around 10am.

Detectives have since dismissed this narrative, with Thika Businessmen Community chairman Alfred Wanyoike terming it “a silly fabrication”.

Police claimed Gitau never authored the suicide note while business associates alleged the trader did not show up in Thika town that morning.

“Please get my son before I die of anxiety… each day that passes without knowing the whereabouts of my son drives me closer to the grave. I remain hopeful he is alive somewhere,” Ms Wanjiru told the Nation.

by nation.africa

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