(Photo source) As I cleaned my teeth this morning listening to the news on my bathroom radio waiting to learn when the next strike would be, the announcement that Marie Dedieu was dead caused me to burst into tears. Why? Because she was a good woman and she was sick, she probably died in the most terrible fear and pain, the victim of gratuitous brutality and indescribable cruelty. That's why.
Marie Dedieu, aged 66, was wheelchair-bound and on regular medication for cancer and heart problems. When she was kidnapped, those scumbags left her wheelchair behind them along with her medicines without which, her friends say she would have been in dreadful pain and in danger of rapid deterioration.
She had lived part-time in Kenya since the 1990's, was grabbed from her beach-hut home on the island of Manda in the Lamu archipelago by an armed gang on 1st October and taken by sea to Somalia.
The Kenyan-government's finger today is pointing at the al-Shahab militant Islamic group powerful in the south and central Somalia. In a country where a war has been raging between a variety of groups for over two decades, arms are easy to come by, thus leading to the conclusion that any one of these armed groups could be responsible. If it is indeed al-Shahab, then it will be the first time the group has kidnapped a foreigner this far from its own zone. Pirates working in this area typically hold ships and their crew for ransom rather than operating on land. Al-Shahab has denied any part in the kidnapping and murder. The only attack it ever carried out far from Somalia was a 2010 suicide bombing in Uganda where dozens fell victim.
The exact date and how Marie actually died remain unknown, but her poor health and the supposition that her medication was denied lead to fears that "this tragic outcome was highly likely".
Scouring the French press this morning for as much info as I could gauge, I was disgusted by some of the comments which just go to underline how foul some people can be - long live Islam!, yelled one of them. Well what did she expect living there anyway? said another. And one more: She left France and wanted our help? Little mention of how this poor woman must have suffered. Her physical pain and terror. What her last moments must have been. I felt sick to the stomach. is this what humanity has come to? So little compassion from the average Jean Dupont in the street? There were of course also cries of great distress and grief.
Who was Marie Dedieu? The BBC describes her as, "A journalist and feminist activist in France, she worked at a feminist magazine in the 1970s and campaigned for the liberalisation of abortion laws.
About seven years ago, Mrs Dedieu rented a patch of land on the island of Manda, opposite Lamu island. She built a small house there, in a traditional Swahili style, with a turf roof.
She called it her "little corner of paradise"."
An activist. A humanitarian. Someone who lived and gave for others. That's who Marie Dedieu was.
French officials have been far more compassionate than some of her compatriots. In a statement, the French foreign ministry expressed its "indignation at the total lack of humanity and the cruelty shown by the kidnappers of our compatriot" and Alain Juppé said "it was an act of barbarity, violence and immeasurable cruelty."
Will Ross, East African correspondent says in his analysis for the BBC,
"Sadly this news has not come as a great surprise to people who knew Marie Dedieu in Lamu. She had been spending the European winters there for several years and her friends say she was in very poor health with cancer and a heart condition making daily medicine a necessity.
If as the French foreign ministry suggests she was denied access to the life saving medicine, her death was tantamount to murder. If the pursuit of a hefty ransom payment was the motive for the kidnapping then taking somebody in poor health who was also severely disabled seems a strange choice. It is not clear who was holding her.
In lawless Somalia, al-Shabab, pirate gangs and bandits are all possible candidates. When money is the goal the groups also co-operate with each other. The Kenyan government is likely to portray Mrs Dedieu's death as another reason to justify the incursion into Somalia to fight al-Shabab. But analysts say there is no concrete proof that al-Shabab was behind the recent kidnappings and the group has denied any involvement in them."
May Marie Dedieu now rest in peace and may those who say she deserved what she got because she left France and went to live in a troubled area be truly and profoundly ashamed of themselves. I, for one, am bouleversée...