The woman suspected of stealing a baby from Kenyatta National Hospital on Sunday planned to sell the infant for Sh7,000.
In an exclusive interview with the Nation Tuesday, 29-year-old Edinah Kemunto, who had initially given her name as Faith Kwamboka, said she already had a customer, whom she only named as Jennifer.
She said she was handed the baby by a cousin of the infant’s father at the hospital but was later “tricked” by Jennifer to escape with the baby to the Kawangware neighbourhood of Nairobi.
Jennifer, she added, is her friend.
Her confession opened the lid on a secretive, well-oiled baby-trading underworld coordinated from the corridors of Kenya’s maternity wards.
Many parents have lost their new-borns this way and, often, the suspects are never apprehended.
This theft, curiously, also happened right under the collective nose of Kenyatta National Hospital’s recently beefed-up security, which faced public fire last month over allegations of sexual harassment of mothers within the facility.
The boy was stolen as his parents were being attended to by doctors. His twin sister remained at the hospital, and on Monday the father confided to us that he had kept his wife in the dark over the matter as he feared the trauma could cause her post-birth complications.
Ms Kemunto confessed that she escaped with the baby as instructed by Jennifer, the woman captured on CCTV cameras walking out of the hospital with the baby in her arms.
“I had gone to the hospital for a check-up because I developed complications after giving birth to my baby, who died in February last year,” Ms Kemunto said.
The greengrocer from Kigawi in Keroka, Kisii County, said she handed the baby to Jennifer outside the hospital and that, from there, they headed to Jennifer’s house in the Kongo area of Kawangware.
“After I returned to my house, I realised that I had done a mistake and I went back to Jennifer’s house to try and convince her that we should return the baby,” she told the Nation.
“I told her that, even though we had agreed that she was going to pay me, I was not happy about what we had done.”
TAKE BABY BACK
On Monday, Ms Kemunto asked Jennifer to let her take the baby back to KNH Tuesday morning as the infant had been surviving on infant formula, she said.
“But this (Tuesday) morning, as I was washing the baby, police came to my house and arrested me. I have tried calling Jennifer several times but her phone is off,” Ms Kemunto said.
Police from Kilimani Police Station, led by the Divisional Criminal Investigations Officer Phyllis Kanina, arrested Kemunto at her house and took her to the police station, where she was last evening being processed for arraignment.
Ms Kanina said police received a tip-off from a caller from Kawangware who said he had spotted the baby at the woman’s house.
“We mobilised police officers and moved to the house, where we found her. The baby was sleeping on the couch,” Ms Kanina said.
At the hospital, the baby’s parents, Mr Job Ouko and Ms Jane Kerubo, were elated after their baby was found.
“I had just finished an interview with a local TV station when a woman called me saying she had seen the interview and wanted to confidentially alert me of a neighbour who had recently returned home with a baby in suspicious circumstances,” said Mr Ouko.
Mr Ouko said after the call he was escorted by a friend to Kawangware chief’s camp, from where they proceeded to Ms Kemunto’s house.
Members of the public thronged the chief’s camp, baying for the suspect’s blood, but police officers dispersed them before driving off with the suspect.
“I’m overwhelmed with joy,” said Mr Ouko.
“This is a nightmare that has finally come to an end.”
The management of KNH refused to allow us to interview the mother, saying she and her baby were under medical observation.