A young man’s quest to escape poverty has turned the life of his family in Kandu village, Meru County, upside down.
One bright May morning last year an ecstatic Richard Koome, 27, called home with the news of a “business trip” he was about to make to India.
He assured his six-month pregnant wife and family of a life changing venture.
However, his promising future turned into a nightmare soon after he landed at Mumbai Airport in India.
Mr Koome was promptly arrested for trying to smuggle 66 kilos of miraa into the country. The stimulant is regarded as a narcotic drug in India.
Following the May 28, 2018 arrest, Mr Koome has been languishing at Taloja Central Prison, a high security facility.
His family has had many sleepless nights trying to secure his release, with crooks taking advantage of the misfortune to defraud them.
Mr Koome’s mother, Zipporah Nkatha, a casual worker who ekes out a living painting houses and washing clothes, said the government was at first reluctant to help.
A man, identified only as Yusuf, who lured Mr Koome to smuggle the miraa, vanished after realising that Koome's family could not raise the Sh1 million he demanded for bond.
“I sent Yusuf Sh5,000 but he blocked my calls thereafter. At one time he said he had travelled to Tanzania. That is the last I heard from him. I cannot concentrate on any work because I fear for my son's life in a foreign country,” she said.
She also sent Sh5,000 to another person who claimed he was in India and would visit Koome, but he also vanished.
Weary but unbowed Ms Nkatha, a single mother of four, held a fundraiser but friends who had promised to attend did not show up.
“I approached various MPs who promised to act until Igembe South MP John Paul Mwirigi got wind of the issue and raised the matter in Parliament. He has also promised to help bring him back,” she said.
Mr Mwirigi said he was in touch with Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma.
A break came on September 20 when Mr Koome called his twin brother and said he had secured a counsel but was being asked for Sh240,000.
He studied up to Form Four and ventured into retail business before joining the miraa business.