From their pictures and videos, Matthew and Daisy Mazzoncini appear to be loving, doting parents. Photographs show them kissing their son on the cheek, cradling him in the hospital when he was sick, and smiling ear to ear as they celebrated his birthday.
So how could a young couple living overseas in Kenya, motivated by their Christian faith and moved by compassion to care for a young, sickly Kenyan boy even possibly be mistaken as child traffickers?
Their lawyer, friends, and supporters believe the answer is easy. They say that label is 100 percent false and based on a rogue government agency’s pursuit of money and power.
“If Daisy and Matt had done anything wrong, why were they not arrested?” the couple’s lawyer, James Singh, asked CBN News in a telephone interview ahead of a court proceeding that potentially will shed light on their plight.
The Mazzoncinis nightmare began the night of April 5, 2019, when about a dozen plainclothes officers raided their apartment and took Kiano, the three-year-old Kenyan boy who legally has been in their care for the past two years. The Nairobi Children’s Court awarded them joint legal guardianship in April 2017.
By the time Mazzoncinis appear before a Kenyan judge on Thursday, it will have been 34 agonizing days since they last saw Kiano, who calls Daisy and Matt “mom” and “dad.”
More than a month after their separation, they have not been told where he is, who has custody, or the status of the little boy’s health. Kiano suffers from a complex medical history including epileptic seizures.
For his parents—who still have not been given a reason why the government took the child—the silence has been deafening, digging a deeper hole in their already broken hearts.
“They took our baby!” Daisy sobbed through tears in a video describing the night Kiano was taken. “He must be so frightened, and we don’t even know if he’s had his medication. Please let him come home!” she begged.
Their hope now is that the court hearing will lead to Kiano’s return and provide answers for why he was taken – or “abducted,” as Matt told CBN News is a more accurate description of what actually happened.
Children’s advocates familiar with their story say it’s not surprising.
Susan Otuoma runs the Little Angels Network, a licensed Kenyan-based adoption service. She believes Kiano and his parents got caught in the middle of a turf war.
“This is not about them being bad parents. This is a narrative that’s been going on a long time,” Otuoma explained. “Child Welfare Society is labeling everyone as a child trafficker.”
Otuoma cited other cases involving the Child Welfare Society of Kenya, or CWSK, described on its website as a “state corporation for the care, protection, welfare and adoption of children.”
Those cases allege similar trafficking accusations and were made against foreign nationals from Sweden, Norway, and Canada. According to public records, the High Court of Kenya has ruled in several cases that it was in the best interest of the child to stay with the adoptive parents or legal guardians despite a 2014 temporary ban on international adoptions that remains in effect today.
“Child Welfare Society is not interested in the welfare and wellbeing of Kenyan children,” Otuoma told CBN News. “This is about power and authority. They want to be the only adoption agency in Kenya.”
Peter Kamau, founder of Child in Family Focus, agrees.
“It’s obvious that a huge travesty of justice is going on,” Kamau said.
Both Otuoma and Kamau told CBN News that CWSK isn’t just operating outside of the law. They contend the taxpayer-supported agency aims to be Kenya’s main adoption provider, without meeting the standard registration or licensing requirements. CWSK bills itself as the “National Adoption Society of Kenya” on its website.
According to official government documents provided to CBN News, the Child Welfare Society of Kenya failed to meet registration requirements that would allow it to arrange international or domestic adoptions like other organizations that were licensed by the governing body, called the Adoption Committee. Instead, it was issued an exemption by a high-ranking cabinet official, Samuel Kazungu Kambi, in October 2013. The decree did not explain why the agency received the waiver.
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SOURCE: CBN, John Jessup