NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 3 – When Christine Nyabera Ongowo, 47, left Kenya for Dubai in December 2007, she hoped to return in time for that year’s general elections.
She probably did not know she was walking into the gallows in the City of Guangzhou, China, where she was arrested and sentenced to hang for being in possession of an unknown quantity of Heroine.
None of her family members knows how she found herself in Guangzhou where she is currently waiting to be executed.
Mrs Ongowo is one of the more than 20 women serving sentences in China for being in possession of drugs.
Her family in Kenya still hopes to see her one day, their hope having been enhanced by remarks made in Parliament on Tuesday by Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula.
Mr Wetangula has indicated that he will be engaging the Chinese government in talks to have the two governments sign a protocol that will enable a prison exchange system and to plead with them to reduce death sentences to life imprisonment.
On Wednesday, Capital News traced family members of Mrs Ongowo who pegged their hope on Mr Wetangula.
“My biggest prayer is to have the death sentence reduced to a life imprisonment and to have my sister back in Kenya to serve her sentence. I urge the government to expedite the initiated talks,” Mrs Ongowo’s sister Margaret Forbes, a Consultant with Express Travel Group said.
Mrs Forbes knows too well the agony her sister is undergoing in prison cells in the City of Guangzhou, “because she left here when she was sick."
“My sister is suffering from Arthritis, Ulcers and High Blood Pressure. You can imagine what she is undergoing in prison cells,” she said.
Since Mrs Ongowo was arrested, Mrs Forbes has been taking care of her three daughterse Zipporah Adhiambo Omondi, 20, Judy Wangari Ongowo, 30 and Sheila Atieno Omondi, 19.
“I was 17-years-old when my mother left, I did not know that she would take forever to come. In fact, I was happy when she left because there is the feeling of we would be alone at home for a few days,” Sheila who is a student at the Goethe Institute said.
Just like her aunt, her biggest wish is to see her mother one day.
“It does not matter even if she will still be in prison custody but I would be very happy if I am told the death sentence has been quashed and the sentence served here in Kenya. My mum is suffering,” she said.
Similar views were expressed by her elder sister Judy who is a community worker in Nairobi.
“We have been living with hopes each day. We just hope she will be freed one day,” she said.
They however, recognise the seriousness of the crime their mother committed by trafficking in drugs.
“What she did was not right. But then we have learnt to accept that she is our mother and we sympathise with her. The sentence handed to her is too harsh,” Judy said as she struggles to keep off tears.
As she narrated the agony they have undergone thinking about their mother, she could pose to gaze into space as recalling images of her mother and the last moments she shared with her.
“It would be better if she came back home and served the sentence here, at least I would be able to visit her in prison and see her. She is my mum and I still love her so much,” she said.
For Zipporah, another of Mrs Ongowo’s daughter she will never forget the day she escorted her mother to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
“It was on December 15th when she traveled and she told me she would be back on the 26th. She did not come and instead she to ask if we had gone for Christmas. She said she would be coming that day, she did not come and we were worried,” she said.
“In January, we were informed by our auntie that she had been arrested. I did not know she dealt in drugs,” she said.