- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 8, 2004

NAIROBI, Kenya - The doors of the clinic at the heart of the so-called “miracle baby” scheme were locked and bolted this week after police shut down the ramshackle Mama Lucy maternity center to stop a reputed child-trafficking racket led by a Britain-based evangelist.

Twenty children have been taken into protective custody and six persons, including two British women, have been charged with abducting babies. Among the accused is Gilbert Deya, 52, a former Kenyan security guard who styles himself an “archbishop” and leads the Gilbert Deya Ministries in London, claiming to have 34,000 followers.

Mr. Deya says the power of his prayers causes infertile women to deliver “miracle babies.”

One of these women was Eddah Odera, 56, who approached the Deya Ministry in Nairobi and, she claims, gave birth to 11 babies over five years inside the Mama Lucy clinic.

Mrs. Odera said she conceived the first child when she met Mr. Deya’s British wife, Mary, in Nairobi in 1999. The preacher’s wife laid her hands on Mrs Odera’s abdomen and declared: “Woman, there is a child in your womb.”

Mrs. Odera said that after that, she repeatedly became pregnant, even though she had passed menopause and no longer had intercourse with her husband.

Police raided her Nairobi home last month and took all 11 children into custody. DNA tests showed that none were related to their supposed parents, and Mr. and Mrs. Odera were charged with abduction.

Police think that the babies were stolen either from Mama Lucy clinic or from Punwani Maternity Hospital, the largest in Nairobi. They raided Mr. Deya’s home in Nairobi and took another nine children into protective custody.

The Deyas claimed all nine were theirs, but DNA tests showed that at least six of the children were not related to them. The verdict on two was inconclusive. One boy was shown to be her son.

Fifty parents have claimed the children in protective custody. Kenyan police have issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Deya and sought his extradition from Britain.

Elizabeth Njenga, 22, the mother of one of the children, described last week how her daughter disappeared from the Kenya maternity hospital.

The last time she saw her baby, the newborn was only a few hours old. Mrs. Njenga watched the tiny figure being rocked gently to sleep, and decided to name her Salome.

But a few minutes after Salome fell asleep, a nurse told Mrs. Njenga that she was going to be transferred to the main ward.

“I asked, ‘What about the baby? Can you give the child to me?’” said Mrs. Njenga, who had given birth by caesarean section.

“The nurse told me: ‘No, you are in pain, you must sleep. Forget about the child until you have recovered.’”

Mrs Njenga caught a fleeting glimpse of her baby peacefully sleeping as she was taken away. Salome disappeared, and her fate is now at the center of what Kenyan police believe is a child-trafficking racket stretching from Britain to Africa.

Mr. Deya, the London-based evangelist, has been charged with involvement in the abduction of Mrs. Njenga’s child from Pumwani Maternity Hospital on Feb 5.

Kenya has applied for the extradition of the preacher, who operates across Britain from Gilbert Deya Ministries in Deptford, south London.

Mr Deya’s claims that his prayers can cause infertile women to have babies helped him expand his following and bring in revenue. He denies the charges and says Kenya’s government is waging a vendetta against him.

Last month, police raided Mr. Deya’s spacious home in the Mountain View area of Nairobi and took nine children into protective custody, including a six-month-old girl who they suspect is Mrs. Njenga’s daughter.

They arrested Mr. Deya’s wife and charged her with involvement in abducting the baby. Two other British women of Kenyan descent, Miriam Nyeko and Rose Kiserem, also were charged and released on bail last week.

Mrs. Njenga has taken DNA tests to prove her parentage of the baby girl found in the Deyas’ home. Although police have not released the results, their decision to charge the Deyas with abducting Salome indicates that they are convinced that Mrs. Njenga is her mother.

Twenty-four couples also have claimed that their babies were abducted from Pumwani Maternity Hospital and police have arrested four of its staff members.

Mrs. Njenga recalled that, the day after she was moved to the main ward, a nurse presented her with a form and told her to sign it because her baby was dead. The young mother, who had two previous children die in infancy, said: “After what had happened before, the pain was much worse.”

As Mrs. Njenga broke down in tears, the nurse ordered her not to tell anyone of her baby’s supposed death.

Mr. Deya has called down curses on anyone trying to claim the children he insists are his own. In a statement, he said: “The Lord will blow their heads off and scatter their bodies in the streets.”

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