An 81-year old Kenyan man has returned home after disappearing for 51 years, thanks to the ongoing Mau Forest evictions.
Mr Francis Muthua Chege left his home in Ikumbi village of Kigumo Constituency, Murang’a County, in 1968 when he was 30 years old.
He did not inform his wife and six children where he was going, leaving them with the agony of finding him.
The man’s wife Wanjiru Muthua said she had to look after the children alone while looking for him and checking with her in-laws.
Mrs Muthua said she once met him in Kisii town but that when she returned, she was told he relocated to an unknown place.
She said she gave up the search for her husband, who was to provide for and educate the children, but hoped he would return one day.
“My only option was to leave his whereabouts to God, pray for his protection and hope that one day he would show up. I had to do that so as to concentrate on looking after our children and ensuring they went to school,” she said in an interview on Monday. “He was only 30 when he left.”
Mr Muthua narrated to his family and the entire village that he went to Kisii, Narok and Kilgoris towns where he tried his hand in business but was unsuccessful.
He later turned to the business of burning charcoal in Mau Forest, settled and even got married but the union did not last long due to his drinking habits.
“I would burn charcoal and spend all the proceeds on alcohol. My second wife and my son could not tolerate my habits so she called it off. I lived a miserable life and felt the shame of going back home with nothing,” he said.
He also said he had no option but to return home as the government started the fresh eviction of settlers from Mau Forest in the bid to save it from further decline.
Mr Muthua went to Kilgoris Police Station and pleaded with the officers to give him bus fare to return to his natives.
He remembered the village but not exactly where his home was. Upon reaching Ikumbi shopping center, tired, hopeless and confused, he slept by the road.
Villager Monicah Gathoni spotted him near Ikumbi Primary school and thought he was hungry.
She approached him but he did not speak.
“He was worn out, sick and seeking mercy. He told me he was trying to locate his home after leaving for many years. After describing his home, I paid a boda boda rider to take him there.”
Mr Muthua’s children, now much older and running their own businesses, arranged to go home when they heard of their father’s return.
Neighbours gathered in large numbers to ascertain that a man who left while a youth had returned.
The family and the village slaughtered goats and organised a feast to welcome Mr Muthua and gives thanks for the reunion.
One of his sons, a secondary school teacher in Ndaragwa, Nyandarua County, said he was too shocked by the news to keep away.
He said he needed to see his father “for the first time” since he left when he was too young to understand or remember.