Friday, July 24, 2009

A picture of despair

It all started when she went to the airport to catch a flight home. A Kenyan officer thought her lips didn't look exactly like those in her passport photo. They confiscated her papers, sent them to the Canadian consulate, and threw her in jail for eight days.

Suaad Hagi Mohamud, a Toronto woman and a Canadian citizen, has been stuck in Nairobi since May 17.

Canadian consular officials called her an "imposter," voided her passport, and sent it back to Kenyan authorities so they could prosecute her. Protesting her innocence, Suaad suggested fingerprinting to prove her identity. Not good enough, said the Canadians. She then suggested DNA testing. After much time-wasting deliberation, they agreed. Her son and husband, both in Toronto, will be tested and compared with her DNA sample, which will be sent to Canada. All this will be completed in two weeks.

It is unknown whether the Kenyans will postpone the court case until this is resolved.

Now bear in mind that more than a month has already passed. She was born in Somalia, not Kenya, and has no family or friends there. Put yourself in her shoes.

When an American gets into difficulty abroad, the U.S. seems ready to threaten a cruise missile strike to sort things out. Canadians in dire straits seem to be pretty much on their own, and apparently can even find their own consulate to be an adversary.

Those who have had nose jobs, facelifts or hair transplants beware.

Update: August 10, 2009 --- the DNA testing confirms that she is, indeed, Suaad Hagi Mohamud.

Update: August 15, 2009 --- Suaad arrives home in Toronto. Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan finally surfaces to say, "From where we see it now it looks like it needs a bit of an explanation."

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