Caroline Mwatha: Missing activist’s last SMS to husband

Caroline Mwatha and her husband Joshua Ochieng.

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When Joshua Ochieng called his wife’s phone last week, someone picked the call, but did not speak.

Ochieng found this strange but decided to keep calm, thinking that maybe, his wife, Caroline Mwatha, a human rights activist in Dandora, was in a meeting.

Ochieng flew into the country on Sunday night from Dubai where he works after getting news of his wife’s disappearance. She has been missing for six days now.

He said that he and his wife chatted on Whatsapp through the night last week on Tuesday and that on Wednesday morning at about 8.35am, she sent him a good morning message to which he replied at 9:56 am.

“She usually drops our daughter to school in the morning, she texted me but I did not see it immediately as I was not online at that time,” Ochieng said.

Afterwards, Ochieng called his wife at around noon last Wednesday. The call was picked, but the person on the other end did not utter a word.

“I assumed that she was in a meeting and continued to call; I called the whole night but nobody picked,” Ochieng said.

Later, Ochieng requested his sister-in-law to go to his house and check what was going on. The sister-in-law only found the couple’s 13-year-old daughter. Ochieng also called his wife’s work place but her colleagues did not know her whereabouts.

“That was when I sensed that something was wrong,” said Ochieng.

Mwatha is a founder member and case worker at the Dandora Community Social Justice Centre that has been documenting and lobbying against extra judicial killings.

Went missing

The mother of two went missing from her home in Dandora. Her disappearance was first reported at the Buruburu police Station on Thursday last week.

One of Mwatha’s colleagues, James Omondi, recalled that he called her on Wednesday when he realised that she had failed to turn up at work.

“We continued to call throughout the day but she was unavailable,” Omondi said.

Caroline Mwatha.

On Thursday, Omondi sent one of their colleagues to Mwatha’s house where they found her daughter alone. The daughter said that she had not seen her mother since Wednesday morning when Mwatha took her to school.

On Friday, family, friends and colleagues mobilised for a search. In groups of five they searched hospitals and mortuaries in Nairobi and parts of Kiambu on Saturday to no avail.

Police said they had requested Safaricom to retrieve Mwatha’s phone call details to establish who she spoke with before her disappearance.

Police harassment

Her colleagues now do not know what to make of her disappearance. They said before she went missing, Mwatha was handling two complaints of police harassment.

Kenya Human Rights Commission Executive Director George Kegoro expressed concern that Mwatha’s disappearance might be linked to her activism work.

“In the absence of any other rational explanation, we are taking this to be linked to what Caroline has been doing,” Kegoro said.

Yesterday, Mwatha’s colleagues and residents of Dandora held an evening vigil, hoping against hope, that she will be found.