Visitors to the Historic Courthouse in Napa Valley, California on Thursday last week encountered a lone picketer. Justin Stewart, the divorced father of a 19-month old daughter, was protesting Judge Diane Price’s decision on Wednesday to allow his ex-wife, Waithira Kamau, to take their daughter, Nyokabi, to visit her native Kenya. They share custody of the child.
For a few hours, Stewart, at times accompanied by a friend, stood on the Brown Street sidewalk in front of the courthouse, holding a sign that read, “Judge Price doesn’t Protect children. Allowing my 19-month old daughter to go to Kenya.”
Stewart, who fears his ex-wife, a Kenyan citizen, will not return to the United States with the child, also distributed flyers stating Kenya is a “very dangerous place.”
“There is terrorism, child trafficking, child abduction and kidnapping,” the flyer read. “Would you take your child to a place like that? 34,000 children a year die from malaria in Kenya.”
According to the United States Agency of International Development, malaria kills about 34,000 children under the age of 5 in Kenya every year.
“Right is Right and Judge Diane Price was wrong!!!,” the flyer reads.
“I have no rights,” said Stewart, a 39-year-old Napa tour guide, as he picketed. “Everything has been in her favor,” he said of his wife.
Court Executive Officer Richard Feldstein on Friday said Price is prohibited from commenting on the case under the California rules of court and the judicial canon of ethics.
Kamau, a 39-year-old nurse and Napa resident, on Friday refuted Stewart’s statements that she does not plan to return to the United States.
She has been living in the United States for 20 years, she said. “I live here, for heaven’s sake. Why shouldn’t I come back?”
Kamau said she does not know when she will go to Kenya with her daughter to visit relatives in Nairobi. “My child has never seen immediate family. Is that a fair deal?”
And she refuted the notion that Kenya is dangerous. “As a mother, why should I put my child in harm’s way?”
Under Thursday’s ruling, Kamau can take the child to Kenya, but has to give Stewart a 30-day notice before she leaves, according to the ruling. She also has to forward Stewart her itinerary and stay in touch with him once a week during her stay, either by email, text or phone.
Kamau can also take the child “no more than three weeks at a time and no more than two times until the girl turns 6,” according to the decision.
In addition, the nurse cannot travel to the areas of the country that are prohibited to U.S. embassy personnel and has to enroll in the “Smart Traveler Enrollment Program,” a free government service that gives U.S. citizens updates on travel warnings, alerts and other information.
Disrupting court proceedings is not allowed, but Stewart was well within his right to picket outside, Feldstein said.
- Napa Valley Register