Driver of Cuban doctors kidnapped in Kenya sentenced to life imprisonment

Issack Ibrein Robow

The man who worked as a driver for the Cuban doctors kidnapped in Kenya almost three years ago was sentenced on Wednesday, March 23, to life imprisonment.

According to Kenyan press reports, Issack Ibrein Robow, a Somali, was convicted of kidnapping, aiding a terrorist act and fraudulently obtaining an identity card.

Robow was the driver of the car transporting surgeon Landy Rodriguez Hernandez and general practitioner Assel Herrera Correa, both Cuban doctors.

The driver was transporting them from the hotel where the doctors were staying to the hospital in the city of Mandera, in the northeast of the country, when, on April 12, 2019, they were kidnapped by alleged members of the Somali jihadist group Al Shabab.

In the assault, the policeman assigned to protect the doctors was shot dead.

The driver was immediately arrested, even though he had been working for the Mandera government for more than two decades.

Some Kenyan and Somali traditional leaders who traveled in May 2019 to the Al Shabab-controlled Somali region of Jubaland to negotiate on behalf of the doctors said they saw the doctors providing medical assistance to the local population.

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According to the mediators, the kidnappers went so far as to demand a $1.5 million reward as a condition for their release, Kenyan media reported at the time.

In October 2020, a high-ranking official of the Somali intelligence services (NISA) assured the EFE news agency that the Cuban doctors had been released, but later retracted his statement, assuring that the delivery of the two hostages had been frustrated at the last moment by a “leak”.

Since then, nothing is known about Rodriguez Hernandez and Herrera Correa, nor were they named this Tuesday, at the meeting between the Kenyan Minister of Health, Mutahi Kagwe, and the Cuban ambassador in Nairobi, Juan Manuel Rodriguez Vazquez, to renew the cooperation agreements on health issues.

In fact, the Kenyan minister emphasized the “success” of the program initiated in 2017 and which facilitated Cuban doctors to fill several vacant positions in Kenyan hospitals, as well as the transfer of Kenyan doctors to Cuba for training.

“We now need to send more Kenyan health workers to Cuba for specialized training. We are also looking for Kenyan doctors to work in Cuban facilities, especially in the areas of cancer and malaria control,” Kagwe said.

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Rodriguez responded that the Cuban government remains committed to the full implementation of Cuba’s bilateral agreements with Kenya and emphasized that its “priority” is to “complete the programs initiated”.

Prior to that meeting, the Kenyan and Cuban governments have reiterated that they are working with Somalia “to guarantee the safe release” of the doctors, so that “they can be reunited with their families”, but the results are still not forthcoming.

The Kenyan government confirmed in the middle of last year that a total of 101 Cuban doctors would travel to the African country, coinciding with the signing of the renewal of the bilateral agreements.

The Minister of Health then stressed that his nation “takes the safety of the Cuban doctors seriously” and emphasized the commitment of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to the safe return of the two kidnapped Cuban doctors.

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