Three months ago, Justin Stewart stood before the Historic Courthouse to protest Judge Diane Price’s decision to allow his ex-wife, Waithira Kamau, to take their 19-month-old daughter to visit her home country of Kenya.
Stewart was a happier man Wednesday, a day after Price stayed her order until June 2014, preventing his ex-wife from taking their daughter to the east Africa country.
In August, Stewart argued that Kenya was an unsafe place for his daughter to visit. In September, terrorists affiliated with al-Qaida killed more than 60 people at an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi during a four-day siege — an incident cited in the judge’s new ruling.
“I’m relieved right now,” Stewart said Wednesday as he and his daughter took a stroll in downtown Napa.
This summer, Stewart had argued in court unsuccessfully that Kenya was dangerous — home to terrorism, child trafficking and abduction, and a place where 34,000 children a year die from malaria. He also feared his ex-wife, a Kenyan citizen, would not return to the United States.
However, on Aug. 14, Price ruled in favor of Kamau, saying the Napa resident could take her daughter to Kenya “no more than three weeks at a time and no more than two times before the minor turns (6) years old.”
A few weeks later, gunmen with al-Shabab, an al-Qaida’s affiliate based in Somalia, overtook the shopping mall and started shooting.
Price issued her new ruling Tuesday after Stewart, a Napa tour guide, appealed his case and represented himself in court. Exhibit A was the terrorist attack on the Nairobi shopping mall.
“Based on new facts related to the (Westgate) Mall incident in (Nairobi), any travel request including passport signatures for the minor child to go to Kenya, has been denied, subject to reconsideration in June,” according to the court minutes on file in Napa County Superior Court.
The judge also appointed an attorney to represent the child, now 22 months. The attorney, whose fees will be borne by both parents, will prepare a report by June on the health and safety risks the child could suffer, “including any act of terrorism, if permitted to travel to Kenya.”
Price ordered Kamau not to travel to areas prohibited to U.S. embassy personnel.
Stewart noted that by June, his daughter may be old enough to be able to receive inoculations against some of the common diseases in Kenya and to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment program, a free service that updates U.S. citizens on travel warnings, alerts and other information.
Neither Kamau nor her attorney could be reached for comment.
This summer, Kamau, a nurse, said she did not know when she would travel to Kenya to visit relatives. She said she wanted to make the trip so that her daughter could see her immediate family she had never met. She also refuted Stewart’s assertions that Kenya was a dangerous country.