A former Al-Qaeda prisoner has urged the family of a South African man, who was kidnapped in Burkina Faso in West Africa, not to lose hope.
Speaking exclusively to the SABC, South African Stephen McGowan, says he knows exactly what the man’s family is going through. McGowan was kidnapped in neighbouring Mali in 2011.
Holding people ransom in some African countries is not uncommon. The man kidnapped in Burkina Faso was working for a mine. He was captured along with two other people.
There are numerous reports of jihadists operating in both Mali and Burkina Faso. McGowan spent nearly six years as a prisoner. He was abducted by militants while touring Mali and held captive in the Sahara desert. Following tough negotiations, he was finally released in July last year.
Humanitarian organisation, Gift of the Givers, helped negotiate McGowan’s release from the militants. He has urged the family of the kidnapped man to remain positive.
“It’s incredible what being positive can actually do in having hope. Hopefully this will go quickly for them and hopefully their communication channels with the Al Qaeda in Mali are already set up so that the conversation can go through. They must just be patient.”
McGowan is willing to counsel the family through this difficult time.
“I did what I could do to stay alive and I’m certain this gentleman will do the same: what he can do to stay alive. I spent a lot of time in the desert trying to make SA look Muslim friendly to try and show that SA people are genuine and trustworthy people.”
McGowan’s family knows the trauma of being in this situation. His father, Malcolm, says it was because of Gift of the Givers, that his son is back home. He’s urged the family of the kidnapped man to seek their assistance.
“They will try. They have their contacts now I think so obviously it’s almost a short cut to get to those people up there. And I’m sure if the family approaches Gift of the Givers they will try their best to assist.”
The International Relations department has advised South Africans travelling to Burkina Faso to be cautious. The department is currently engaging with officials in that country to assist the kidnapped man.