NAIROBI: The family of terror convict Joseph Juma Odhiambo “Yusuf” who escaped from Kamiti Prison have narrated a sad ordeal of his journey to joining terror groups.
Joseph Odhiambo’s family, who was born in Matungu constituency, have expressed optimism that their sons could still reform.
According to his eldest brother, Julius Odhiambo, the 30-year-old, Juma went to Mukwale Primary School where he performed well by scoring 336 marks in his 2008 Kenya Certificate of Primary examination (KCPE).
“Juma was doing well. He even scored 336 out of a possible 500 marks in the 2008 KCPE and was selling scrap metals at Ejinja shopping centre in Matungu after our father failed to raise fees for him to join secondary education,” Julius Odhiambo revealed.
Julius narrated how his younger brother’s behavior took drastic change when he converted to a radical religious sect, Islam.
“He started changing when he left Christianity and joined a radical religious sect that made him start throwing around swear words and stopped associating with us (family) claiming we were non-believers. Our father and I tried to talk him out but it had gotten the better of him.” he recalled.
Julius says he then referred his follower to their mother, Florence Nerima, who recommended that he stays with her in Nairobi’s Eastleigh area where he is believed to have worked at a money exchange bureau and as a clothes dealer.
One day, The family received frantic calls saying Juma was arrested in Somalia where he reportedly intended to join the Al Shaabab terror group.
“Then, he called to say he had been sentenced to six months or pay a fine of Sh30,000 for trespass. He called to say he understood our family’s poverty and we should not bother paying the fine. He wanted to suffer the punishment which would be rewarded in the afterlife,” says Julius Odhiambo.
He added: “We realised it was not him. After his release, I called him home with a promise to buy him a motorbike but he declined, saying he wanted to study religion.”
Since then, the 32-year-old Julius never heard of his younger brother until when their mother called to say he had been sentenced in 2019 for 15 years in a terror-related offence.
Both Julius and his father Peter Odhiambo were heart broken to see their kin’s photos shared all over mainstream and social media as a wanted man after escaping from the maximum prison,.
“My phone was also ringing. Detectives were inquiring whether he had travelled from Kamiti to my home,” says Peter. “He had serious personality and behavioural issues after denouncing Christianity. He sold a cow and abandoned his wife and two children to go study much about the sect.” he said.
Juma’s mother, Florence Nerima, who separated with husband, Peter in the early 2000s holds that her son would soon see the outside of Kamiti gates.
“His twin sister, Linet Sofia and I keep praying to Jesus that he frees him from prison and the sect. It hurts me when I see how Linet suffer emotionally because her twin brother is in jail,” she says on the telephone. “I know one day he will be out without sneaking.” Nerima said.
She added: “I ask for forgiveness on behalf of my son for everything he has done. He did not know what he was doing. May God forgive him and may the government also forgive him,” said Florence Odhiambo, the convict’s mother.
Florence said she had so much hope in him as apart from schooling, he was also business-minded.
“While in class 6, he started selling kales and his business was flourishing,” Nerima recounted.
As his mother is remorseful and apologetic on behalf of her son, his father is calling for a heavier punishment by the government, terming him as an adult who has chosen his path in life.
His father said Odhiambo liked his mother so much and wanted to stay with her after their separation.