From our Special Correspondent Massimo A. Alberizzi
Nairobi, July 2019
“Just read. Very beautiful. Thank you for thinking of me. I also see myself in it. And as the days go by I am more and more convinced of my choice of fighting the current. Against societal schemes that impose limits. But I don’t want to conform to the opinions of the people close to me, a dad or a friend, that cannot understand this choice and never will. I don’t blame them. I feel bad, because they can’t even imagine how much life you gain when you do good for others. When you enter other people’s everyday life. When you travel, when you make new wonderful friends in a different continent. Friends like siblings. When you see the light these kids have. And I’m going to keep following this path until I will feel like it. During these last four months I have met so many extraordinary people. Like you. You have given me the journey, and I am sure I will meet many more. And that is going to make me a better human being.”
This is what Silvia Romana texted a friend on the 11th of November, nine days before the kidnapping, right after she finished reading Bianco come Dio by Nicolò Govoni (White like God, an Italian book on on the great and not-so-great aspects of humanitarian travels ndr).
“A text that exudes determination, obstinacy and a great deal of intelligence. The ability to swim against the tide and not be overwhelmed by it. She tried with all her heart and open arms to help people who were less privileged than her” says Anna, Silvia’s best friend (a fake name is being used to respect her privacy in such a delicate moment). “She represents the best part of Italy, one to be proud of.”
After weeks of the investigation of Silvia Romano’s case being stuck- she was kidnapped on the 20th of November in a small Kenyan village – now things seem to be moving. Italian special operations policemen summoned to appear individuals who are “aware of what happened”. Friends of Silvia, these volunteers who worked in Chakama for the non-profit Africa Milele, where the young woman helped local children. And that is not it. The Kenyan investigators have finally started acting. In Chakama, the village where Silvia was abducted by a commando of men armed with only guns and a grenade, thrown more so to scare than to kill, the police are making a comeback.
“The violence during the kidnapping – comments a police inspector in Nairobi – looked more like a theatrical act. The kidnappers carried Silvia up to the almost entirely dry Athi Galana Sabaki river, which is quite close. They got across the river and got to the motorcycles they had left there. They could have acted by surprise, riding to Chakama, taking Silvia and leaving quickly. Instead they took a more complicated and difficult route where someone could have followed or recognized them. But they where able to get away.”
The inspector is optimistic: “If I had to bet, I would say that Silvia is alive and being held hostage somewhere”.
The investigation made locally by the daily Italian newspaper Africa ExPress have made things clearer on Francis Kalama, the Anglican priest that Silvia reported to the police for sexual harassment of little girls. The Pastor’s real name is Francis Kahindi Charo. He is from Malindi, where his family currently lives. He lives in Marafa, another small village of the hinterland (which happens to be on the other side of the Athi Galana Sabaki) where he was sent to be the head of the ACK, African Churches of Kenya, community in said area.
Last Saturday, he was officiating a funeral. None of the people present were aware of the report filed by Silvia. On Sunday morning the stringer of Il Fatto Quotidiano manage to have a few words with him: “The police has not been looking for me and I am not aware of any accusations against me. In November, when I met Silvia, I was in Chakama for the first time. I was sent there by my supervisor to organize our community. I will be back here shortly – he added – I heard about the young woman’s kidnapping on national radio. And, again, I know nothing about the report filed against me.”
In the village where the 23-year-old from Milan was abducted word came that the investigation resumed in a assiduous way. Police patrols are navigating through the dusty roads of the settlement. On Friday the officers picked up a few people to question in the Malindi police station: Ronald Karissa, the young man who was in the same house as Silvia at the time of the kidnapping, and Elisabeth Kasena, the girl whose phone seems to have been used by the kidnappers. With them the area chief (a sort of mayor) of Chakama was also brought to Malindi as a witness.
Moses Luari Chende, the man arrested right after the kidnapping and Elisabeth Kasena’s husband, accused of helping with the logistics of the crime, is about to go on trial in Malindi (end of July, beginning of August, the date has yet to be set). The Kenyan police suspects that among the people questioned there is someone who has been monitoring the movements of Silvia and the authorities, acting as a lookout.
Massimo A. Alberizzi
with contribution of Hillary Duenas firstname.lastname@example.org