On Sunday 31st July some Christians from Kakuta, Nyangatom, Ethiopia, accompanied by their priest, Fr Angel Valdivia of the Missionary Community of St Paul (MCSPA) and catechist Charles Abong, went to Lebere village to celebrate a joint mass with Turkana Catholics from Kibish, Kenya. During the mass three Nyangatom warriors disrupted the prayers and took all the Turkana as hostages. According to the perpetrators 31 cows had been taken by Turkana raiders before and therefore they were now holding the hostages until their cows are returned. Among the hostages were Catholic Church catechists from Kibish and Lokomarinyang, an ECD teacher from Kibish, 3 school children, 3 girls and 5 women. The situation was delicate and even authorities and police from Ethiopia together with the elders were very careful in handling this very delicate situation. After a few hours’ of meetings, the only way forward found was that the men and children would be released but the women would be held back but under the care of Lebere village’s most important elder. For three days the mission personnel have been making efforts to take care of the women and coordinate with the authorities of both countries to have the hostages released in a peaceful way.
Yesterday the claimants of the stolen cows and perpetrators of the hostage-taking were driven to Kenya to identify their cows. They were later told to wait at the police station until the Turkana women would be released. It was a dead-lock. Animosity was high on both sides.
Finally yesterday evening police and administration from both countries met to discuss the terms of the release. The situation now is calmer and the father of the young men and perpetrators has finally agreed in writing to release the women and wait for their cows as he holds another 10 cows, recovered by the Ethiopian authorities, which had been stolen by Nyangatom raiders from the Turkana earlier on.
Despite the tension caused by both sides, the Kenyan and Ethiopian authorities demonstrated their deep commitment to maintain peace between these two communities.
Today 3rd of August at around 2 p.m. police and administration from both Kenya and Ethiopia managed to exchange the Turkana women hostages by the three Nyangatom who went yesterday to Kenya to identify their cows. An agreement was made also for the return of the cows from both sides as soon as possible. The women were taken to the Kenya police station to give their account of what had happened. They were welcomed by a cheerful crow among shouts of joy and tears of happiness. We then later on went to the church together to pray for them and bless them and give thanks to God for his intervention and protection. The Christians celebrated with prayers and songs and renewed their commitment to stand for peace in spite of the challenges and take the light of Gospel where there is still darkness. It has been a very challenging experience for the women and all those who were involved in these three days event, but the most important lesson for all of us has been that God is protecting us and taking care of us at all times, and if we have faith in him no evil will harm us.
Fr. Angel Valdivia