After 12 gruelling weeks in which she stood accused of posing as the owner of her own passport and was barred from leaving Kenya to return home to her 12-year-old son in Toronto, Suaad Hagi Mohamud finally flew out of Africa Friday night. But she hasn't left her troubles behind.
In a matter of months she hopes to return to care for her ailing mother and to launch lawsuits that will almost certainly keep the memories of her ordeal alive for years.
Even as she waited outside a Nairobi courtroom to learn whether a Kenyan judge would dismiss the charges against her, she planned her return.
Within hours she hoped to be soaring above Nairobi, away from an ordeal that left her mentally exhausted and racked by a case of pneumonia that set in months ago, while she was sleeping on the dank concrete floor of an overcrowded Nairobi prison.
But she doesn't plan to be away for long.
"I will be back in a couple of months - just as soon as I can get my passport," she said. "I might stay for a year."
She plans to bring her son with her this time.
"I can never leave him again," she said. "Here in Kenya they have good schools, good private high schools."
And while Ms. Mohamud spoke fondly of Kenya and Canada, her lawyer made it clear that those who caused her ordeal will pay a price.
He said there were plans to sue the governments of Kenya and Canada and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines for a total of more than $1-million.
"What Suaad has had to suffer for the past three months has been humiliating physically and psychologically," said Kenyan lawyer Lucas Naikuni. "She was kept away from her family… She must be compensated and compensated handsomely."
But even Friday, on a relatively good day in court, there were constant reminders of what she had been through.
At one point lawyers worried that Ms. Mohamud's case file had been lost somewhere in the warren of notoriously back-logged offices of the High Court. Mr. Naikuni vanished, leaving his student assistant to reel off the long list of rooms where they had searched for the file.
Transferred to a second courtroom, Ms. Mohamud cooled her heels while a judge heard another case. The sense that a person could simply be lost within the vast, seemingly indifferent bureaucracy was almost overwhelming. "In the beginning it was really, really scary," Ms. Mohamud said.
Finally, at 3 p.m., a court magistrate declared the charges against Ms. Mohamud dropped.
"The accused is discharged," said Senior Principal Magistrate Stella Muketi, who then ordered Kenyan immigrations officials to turn Ms. Mohamud over to Canadian High Commission officials.
From court, Ms. Mohamud was settled behind the tinted windows of an SUV with diplomatic plates and whisked through the honking mayhem of Nairobi's Friday afternoon gridlock to the High Commission for an emergency travel document and then on to Kenya's Department of Immigration for the visa that would finally permit her legal passage home. At last, it seemed, the machinery of her government had swung behind her, working with breakneck efficiency on her behalf.
But as the High Commission car pulled away from the curb with Ms. Mohamud inside, the woman who had raised money for Ms. Mohamud's legal fees and seen her through jail and an emergency hospital stay seemed more terrified than pleased.
"I am happy but I am not happy for her to be in Canada," said Hamida Ahmed Muhidin, who said she was the first person Ms. Mohamud called when she was detained at the airport on May 21. "I don't think I could go to Canada, the way they treat their people. If it could have happened to me, I would find another country."
Ms. Muhidin closed her cosmetics business in a small town outside of Nairobi and left her kids behind to travel constantly into Nairobi to make sure her friend was safe.
"I am someone who, when I see something bad happen, I have to cry until that thing ends," she said. Thinking about all that she has given up, she had one question: "Will they compensate me?"
It's a question that will undoubtedly be answered over the course of many more long months in court for Ms. Mohamud and her lawyers.
Special to The Globe and Mail
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