Man who ‘travelled to Burundi on foot’ returns home after 26 years

Celebrations rocked Malindi’s Jilore area after a mentally unstable man who disappeared 26 years ago returned home.

Isaac Kithi Kombe was last seen by his family in May 1990 after being booked to Port Reitz Mental Hospital due to mental complications. Authorities at the hospital had then instructed his uncle to come back after three weeks; his uncle not knowing that three weeks would turn into 26 years without seeing his nephew.

A then 17-year old Kithi allegedly escaped from the facility and was seen wandering the streets of a Burundi village five months ago.


Search efforts by his family bore no fruits with members losing hope that he would ever come back home alive.


Kithi, described as a hardworking young man by the family, was in Form Two when he disappeared.

When asked how he got to Burundi, he told the family that he travelled by foot.

Thoya Iha, who works with the Kenyan Embassy in Burundi, said that Kithi was brought to the Embassy by a chief and Burundian police on May 28 after previously being taken to the Tanzanian Embassy when they heard him speaking Swahili.

Speaking at Jilore, Iha said he was able to communicate with him fluently in Giriama and even though he could not remember exactly where he came from, he mentioned three names of places, Jilore being one of them.

“The diplomatic officers asked him questions and he talked the truth which made it easier for us to understand his whereabouts,” he said.

Iha was assigned the responsibility of tracing his family and hopefully reuniting Kithi with his kins.

Iha immediately took photos of Kithi outside the Kenyan Embassy in Burundi and shared them on Facebook as well as different social media outlets. His call received positive feedback with many social media consumers spreading Kithi’s photo on their own platforms.

As the search went on, Kithi was in safe custody at a camp where he received a weekly allowance of Ksh 1500 for food and upkeep.

“It took me three months to get his family on Facebook. Some of the people commented and shared until one of his uncles saw it and contacted the Embassy,” he said.

Kithi’s uncle, Giedon Kithi, saw the Facebook post that was shared in July and immediately emailed the Burundian Embassy.

“The authorities wanted to get more information which I provided and they confirmed that he was my long lost relative,” said Kithi’s uncle.

After Kithi’s details were confirmed, arrangements to reunite him with his family were made with Malindi Member of Parliament, Willy Mtengo, helping with travel logistics.

“We shall organize for him to get an Identity Card. The family should treat him well as he needs to adjust after staying away from the country for long,” said the MP.

Kithi left Burundi on Friday by bus with Iha and arrived home on Tuesday, September 20 making a quick stop at the area MP’s office before heading home.

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