What happened to Kiano Mazzoncini?
US couple claim Kenyan authorities have kidnapped their three-year-old adopted son
A US couple will go to court this week in Kenya over claims that the authorities have kidnapped their three-year-old adopted son.
Matt and Daisy Mazzoncini were made legal guardians of Kiano by the Children’s Court of Nairobi in April 2017. The couple had been caring for Kiano since he was six months old, after he was found in 2016 as a newborn “abandoned along with another baby believed to be his twin”, who later died, says CNN.
The Mazzoncinis say their problems with the Kenyan authorities date back to when they first applied to adopt Kiano. The couple met with Irene Mureithi, CEO of the Child Welfare Society of Kenya (CWSK), who they say “made it clear” that there were already more than enough Kenyan mothers to care for Kenyan children.
In a sworn affidavit submitted to court by the CWSK in February, Mureithi claimed that the matter “appears to be a case of child trafficking” - a charge that the couple strenuously deny.
In a telephone interview with CBN News, their lawyer, James Singh, asked: “If Daisy and Matt had done anything wrong, why were they not arrested?”
Singh and his team have filed an emergency application in the criminal division of the High Court of Kenya.
Fellow advocate Austin Ayisi told CNN that the Kenyan police had acted illegally. “They had no court order to take the child,” he said. “Someone has to file an application in court to revoke my client’s guardianship and our client has rights to respond. There was no search warrant. They are illegally detaining the child right now.”
The case has been delayed twice, with the next hearing scheduled for 15 May.
What has happened to the child?
Surveillance footage obtained by CNN shows two cars pulling up to the Mazzoncinis’ apartment home on 5 April. Two groups of people exit the vehicles and shortly after, “two women, their faces obscured by headscarves, can be seen carrying the boy downstairs and out of the building”, says the US broadcaster.
That was the last time the couple saw Kiano, whom Daisy first met while volunteering at the Nairobi orphanage where he was taken as a baby.
“I had just finished putting Kiano to bed and he had just fallen asleep and I walked out of his room and saw Matt’s face and all these people and I just knew something was really wrong,” she told CNN.
No one in the group offered any identification, search warrant or court order, according to the couple.
“I just stood up and I started yelling and I said, ‘Is that Kiano?’ I just started screaming, ‘You are kidnapping a child right now, you’re kidnapping our son’,” said Matt.
According to US news website Heavy, the couple claim they were targeted “because they refused to bribe anybody while seeking to adopt baby Kiano”.
“We believe this is happening because we have refused to be extorted. We have refused to bribe,” Daisy said. “At every turn, we’ve done everything through the court – through the government.”
“We believe there are other people out there that have experienced this same sort of intimidation and harassment and extortion,” her husband added. “We’ve had people reach out to us anonymously and say this happened to me and they’re totally afraid to talk about it. So to those people I would say have courage.”
What have the authorities said?
Plainclothes police who attended when Kiano was taken from the Mazzoncinis told the couple that their guardianship order was fraudulent.
The Kenyan Police Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) subsequently tweeted that they they had “rescued” #BabyJohnKiano from the US couple in order to prevent them from taking him back to their home land.
“The child is well & in safe hands,” DCI said in the tweet, which was later deleted at th request of the US embassy, reports Kenyan newspaper The Star.
CWSK boss Mureithi told CNN that Kiano was now in “safe custody ... with other children”. She denied that her organisation was involved in the young boy’s forced removal from the Mazzoncinis’ home, calling it a “security operation”.
But Susan Otuoma of Little Angels Network, a child protection organsation and licensed adoption agency in Kenya, told CNN that CWSK had no grounds to take Kiano from the couple.
“The state cannot out of nowhere decide to remove a child from a guardianship arrangement,” Otuoma said. “Only the court has the powers to revoke a guardianship order and this can only be done on the request of any parent or guardian of the child, the child concerned or a relative of the child.”