By JAMES KARIUKI
An American judge Tuesday stopped a Kenyan mother from travelling back home with her 22-month old daughter, saying, Kenya was not safe enough for the child.
Ms Waithira Kamau had intended to travel to Kenya with her baby to visit the child’s grandparents and other relatives.
But Judge Diane Price of the Napa High Court said the child cannot be guaranteed security while in Kenya.
She said security has remained unpredictable following last month’s Westgate Mall terrorist attack in which 70 people were killed.
She barred Ms Kamau from taking the baby with her to Kenya following an application by her former husband, Mr Austin Stewart. Ms Kamau and Mr Stewart are divorced.
The earliest that the ruling can be reviewed is June next year.
In his papers filed before the court, Mr Stewart argued that Kenya was an unsafe place for his daughter to visit and cited last month’s attack in Nairobi.
Kenya, he said, was not only dangerous, but home to terrorists, child traffickers and kidnappers and was a place where 34,000 children die annually from malaria.
He also expressed his fears that his ex-wife would not return to the United States, thereby denying him the chance to be visiting his daughter.
Ms Kamau had won an earlier reprieve when the Napa High Court ruled that she could take her daughter to Kenya for not more than three weeks at a time and not more than two times before the minor turns six years old.
A few weeks later, after the terror attack on shoppers at Westgate, Mr Stewart rushed to court again seeking a review of the earlier orders in the face of what had happened in Nairobi.
When Judge Price issued her new ruling, Mr Stewart, a Napa tour guide, who appeared in person, presented pictures and stories from press cuttings showing the mall shooting incident.
“Based on new facts related to the (Westgate) Mall incident in (Nairobi), any travel request including passport signatures for the minor child to go to Kenya has been denied, subject to reconsideration in June 2014,” Judge Price said.
She also appointed an attorney to represent the child in upcoming court appearances with the attorney’s fees to be borne by both parents.
The court also directed that a comprehensive report be tabled in court next year in June on the health and safety risks the child could suffer, “including any act of terrorism, if permitted to travel to Kenya.”
The judge added that the girl is also prohibited from travelling to any area that US embassy personnel are prohibited from visiting.
A jubilant Mr Stewart noted that by June, his daughter will be old enough to be able to receive inoculations against some of the common diseases in Kenya and to enrol in the Smart Traveller Enrolment programme, a free service that updates US citizens on travel warnings, alerts and other information.
Neither Ms Kamau nor her attorney could be reached for comment.
This summer, Ms Kamau, a nurse, said she did not know when she would travel to Kenya to visit her relatives.
She said she wanted to make the trip so that her daughter could see her immediate family. She also refuted Mr Stewart’s assertions that Kenya was a dangerous country.