Special for Africa ExPress
Massimo A. Alberizzi
Nairobi, Mombasa and Malindi, June 15th 2019
Chaos is abound when looking for traces of Silvia Romano, the twenty-three year old girl from Milan who was kidnapped on the evening of November 20th in Chakama, Kenya. The investigations have been poor and there is competition between the various police forces of the former British colony and the army. The latter has been busy exploring the whole territory on the border with the troubled Somalia.
Silvia seems to have disappeared into thin air. Since the moment of her disappearance no information has been shared. The only statement came from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, requesting a media black out. A routine attitude that serves more to keep secrets that cannot be confessed than to safeguard the lives of the hostages or the security of related investigations.
In most cases you always manage to get some information. Not this time. Not anything. “Excuse me, but did Silvia Romano sleep here?” The Indian lady who runs the guest house Marigold, in the chaotic center of Mombasa, is not only kind but also collaborative. After explaining why we are investigating the abduction, she immediately calls her son Aash Sahiko who shows up with guest records. After a quick search comes the answer: “Yes, she was here on September 22nd and the night between November 4th and 5th”. Hillary Duenas, the American colleague who accompanies me and who will be very important in opening apparently sewn mouths, asks and gets permission to photograph the pages. Every detail is precious. We ask: Has Silvia come here alone? “Of course – it’s the answer – she paid the price of the single room. She came alone and left alone “. Aash Sahiko remembers it well: “A beautiful girl like that, remains impressed. I was happy when I saw her for the second time in November “. But did anyone from the Kenyan police or Italian agents come to ask about Silvia? We ask. “No, nobody. When we learned of his abduction we prepared to receive the visit of some investigator and we were surprised that the policemen did not appear “. Hillary and I look at each other surprised: how is it possible that no investigator showed up to check that the girl was alone?
Silvia, beautiful, young and dynamic, could not fail to attract the attention of some boy. In fact, many people were to court her or even to declare their great love, like Alfred Scott, a physiotherapist at the hospital in Mombasa who on Facebook claims to be in love with Silvia.
Nairobi police have formulated three hypotheses on the kidnapping: seizure to obtain a ransom, seizure to cover her mouth on accusations of pedophilia of which she would have witnessed in Likoni, or the same motive but for harassment in Chakama, Malindi hinterland village.
Silvia arrived in Kenya for the first time on 22 July last year. SHe had met an Italian, Davide Ciarrapica, during a charity party. The 31-year-old from Seregno runs a children’s center in Likoni, a village separated from Mombasa by a stretch of sea that can be crossed by ferry.
The girl sees the possibility of doing something for vulnerable orphans, so she emkarks for Mombasa with him.
In an embarrassing statement verbally issued by Ciarrapica to a Kenyan detective, he has made statements which investigators suspect are attempts to defame her- “Without any shame David, during an interview on May 15th, tells me that Silvia jumped on him during the plane trip. Rather strange it seemed to me a way to discredit her in my eyes. I didn’t believe him”.
Silvia stayed at Davide’s Hopes Dreams Rescue Sponsorship Center for a month, then returned to Milan. On 5 November she returned to Kenya. At Mombasa airport, she is received by Ciarrapica. Together they go to Likoni, but she stays there for a few hours. At the end of the day she returns to Mombasa and stops to sleep at Marigold. The next morning she runs to Chakama, along with two new volunteers as soon as they arrive, to the Africa Milele facility, the non-profit organization she will work for to help children. In the center of Likoni, I am met by a mother who knew Silvia well. When I ask her to tell me something about the girl’s stay here, she bursts into tears: “I love her, I love her. I hope you come back soon. I had three girls in that center, then I took them back ”. Why? “Incorrect and embarrassing things happened. Back home my daughters reported strange attitudes of Davide and his partner, Rama Hamisi Bindo ”.
A Kenyan who worked at the Likoni Children’s Center said: “No, I don’t think there have been cases of pedophilia, but one day they pushed me away saying:” You know too many secrets of this place. It is better that you leave. ” Fired in the trunk ”. A visit to the Hopes Dreams Rescue Sponsorship Center leaves you confused and amazed. Hillary – who is also a doctor- is greeted at the entrance by an elderly lady who lights up: “Ah, thank goodness. She came here for that fourteen year old pregnant. ” Obviously not, but the fact that Davide arrives with his girlfriend, a stupendous seventeen year old, is also puzzling.
After her first experience in Chakama, Silvia returns to Italy, promising Davide that she will organize charity meetings to raise funds for her Likoni center, which she does during October. She returns on 5 November and goes to Likoni, just enough time to be coldly welcomed by the children, who have the order to remain on the careful property and not to greet her, and by Davide, who accuses her of not having collected enough money. African children always make a big party for people, especially ones they know and who played with them before. Those kids remain petrified instead. “Davide is an irascible choleric – says another former employee -. This is why in Italy he was recently sentenced to 6 years in prison and 35,000 euros in damages for having bitten off one ear during a fight in a nightclub in Milan “.
One of the Kenyan investigators who is trying to unravel the intricate story says: “We had indications that Silvia showed some discomfort with the Center where, according to her, there was harassment of the little guests. That structure is viewed with a certain benevolence by the local authorities. The partner and friend of Davide Ciarrapica, Rama Hamisi Bindo, is the son of a famous politician and enjoys unsuspected protections “. I was stunned. Sorry? Repeat again. “Yes, he enjoys powerful protections.” Hillary and I look at each other in disbelief. I, because I believe I have misunderstood; her because, being an American, she understood very well.
The Mombasa police, according to our witness who fears retaliation and emphasizes to me three times not to publish his name, never intervened with the true determination to investigate the case: “Here is a confidential critical report on the behavior of how it is the investigation was carried out there ”, he murmurs, taking a very compromising document out of the drawer. We read it but he does not allow us to photograph it. Some words are incomprehensible to me, like “reticence”, but Hillary helps me with her English. In his deposition of May 15 to the police, Ciarrapica claims to have advised Silvia not to go to Chakama, yet in an email that I could see, exactly the opposite was written. Indeed, it was he who advised her to go.
But what is perhaps the most worrisome and suspicious objective piece of evidence is that that the at the Kenyan airports all the files on Silvia Romano have disappeared.
All vistors entering and exiting Kenya are given automatic photos and fingerprints when enetering the country. This procedure must have taken place for Silvia, yet her passport is stamped three times for entry and exit without any of the records existing in the automated system. How have these records been removed for an nationally automated system? The Malindi police investigator is also surprised.
On 11 November, nine days before being kidnapped, Silvia asked Lilian Sora, the president of NGO Africa Milele, for advice about reporting pedofilia to Kenyan authorities.
Lilian Sora gave her total approval. With two other volunteers, Giancarlo and Roberta, she then went to the central police to file a complaint against a Kenyan named Francis Kalama of Marafa, an Anglican pastor who they accuse of molesting girls.
Silvia later left a voice message with Lilian Sora detailing the location where she filed the report, who she spoke with, and the nature of the report. (The audio is in Italian)
However, at the police station where she filed the report, a thorough search of the records of complaints leads to nothing. The agents who manage the complaints and files search, exasperated, finding no record of siliva ever having been the the station. In the whatsapp audio message, Silvia, who has been depicted as helpless yet instead proves to be stubborn, legalistic and a lover of justice, tells with a wealth of detail that she went to the police and had the assurance that Kalama will be arrested and “Girls will undergo a medical test”. Very heavy detail. The promise, however, was not followed: Kalama is gone. No one has any idea where he is, let alone the investigators. He is thought to have never been notified of the complaint.
One of the police chiefs tells us that there are people under arrest: a Kenyan giriama, the ethnic group that lives on the coast of the country, Moses Luari Chende; a Kenyan of the ethnic origin Gababa (the one accused of having organized the kidnapping), and a Somali with a Kenyan identity document illegally obtained without the necessary and mandatory procedure, Ibrahim. “They certainly know something but they are performers. We wait for the names of the principals”. Yes, but in Kenya making the names of those who ordered a kidnapping is like committing suicide. Hillary asks me: “But why doesn’t your government guarantee security in Italy? A residence permit for those providing information would be very useful. ” A trivial question, to which I cannot find an answer. A police criticism of the army also emerges: “The army closed our borders with Somalia, but it was not absolutely cooperative with the investigations. Of course, it is not their job, but they have also gone to remote villages, where it is difficult for us to reach. ” Still to the Malindi police, they shake their heads to hear about Italian investigators: “The honorary consul, Ivan del Prete, came here, but he didn’t do much. He asked for information, as she is doing. Nothing more”.
No information. No collaboration. As is recurring in this case from every angle, again, nothing. Here’s how to throw away the opportunities to understand what really happened to Silvia.
Massimo A. Alberizzi
with contribution of