Kenya remembers dead French hostage with affection

19th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Marie Dedieu, the Frenchwoman who was reported dead Wednesday three weeks after her abduction from her Kenyan beachfront house was remembered with affection by residents of her adopted home.

"Everyone one will be very sad," said Abdulla Sultan, a local guide, said in shock at the news. "Everyone in Lamu, Shela, Manda -- everywhere here," he added, naming all the main resorts on the Lamu archipelago.

Local district commissioner Stephen Ikua could hardly speak for grief, only be able to say, "sorry, sorry, sorry."

Dedieu set up home on Lamu's Manda Island before it was fashionable, becoming a well loved figure in what she called her "corner of paradise."

Friends say that in spite of an accident that left her dependent on a wheelchair for moving around, she remained very active and continued to do gymnastics.

She needed to take medication several times a day, but the gunmen who seized her neither took her drugs with her or her wheelchair.

The French foreign ministry said the conditions of her detention in Somalia and the fact that her abductors had probably failed to give her the medication that was sent to them were the likely reasons of her death.

Dedieu lived with a Kenyan partner, John Lepapa, 39, who accompanied her on all her trips back to France for medical care and family visits.

The handicapped 66-year-old was was well known long-term resident, having spent the last 15 years on the Lamu archipelago.

"Even the small children" knew the friendly lady, Sultan had said after her abduction on October 1.

"Whenever there was a wedding here she was among the guests. She's very friendly towards people," he said.

Dedieu and Lepapa had returned from a trip France just days before the abduction.

The timing of the attack led people close to her to say the kidnappers may have been tipped off about their return.

A photograph in the local press shows a relaxed smiling woman with hair blowing across her face.

"She was a pioneer, among the first people to set up home on Manda. Nothing to do with the very rich celebrity types who followed," said a French diplomat who visited Dedieu at her home last year.

Her home was a traditional Swahili-style house with a thatched roof a couple of metres from the sea.

"It was her little corner of paradise here. That's what she used to call it," the diplomat said.

Dedieu disapproved of the swanky villas richer foreigners have started building nearby, worried about the gap between such ostentation and the lifestyle of the local population, the vast majority of whom are poor.

© 2011 AFP

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