Mother of allegedly abducted daughter to fly to Africa

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Dr. Noelle Hunter and her daughter Muna on a family holiday in Mali in 2009

Dr. Noelle Hunter and her daughter Muna on a family holiday in Mali in 2009

A mother whose child has been allegedly abducted by her ex-husband is one step closer to being reunited with her 5-year-old who was taken to war-torn Mali.

Dr. Noelle Hunter will fly out to the African nation in early June following the recent news her estranged husband filed for sole custody of their daughter in a Mali court.

Hunter, from Morehead, Kentucky, said she is certain the recent spate of media coverage, including a report on theGrio, has spurred her former spouse to take action.

Up until now Mali native Ibrahim N’Diaye refused to even allow his ex-wife to have any contact with their young daughter, she claims.

“So much uncertainty”

Still, she admits the prospect of taking a trip to West Africa alone, with an open-ended airline ticket, is a daunting task.

“There’s so much uncertainty,” she said. “I don’t know where I am going to stay. There is the language barrier and I have concerns about getting a fair trial in Mali.”

Though, she adds, “I have every hope that we’ll prevail” and “I hope in my heart that when I leave Mali I will come home with Muna.”

In a bid to uphold U.S. rule of law, Hunter has asked her Mali-based attorney to petition the judge to honor a Kentucky, January 13, 2012, sole custody order as well as a February 21, 2013, order for the immediate return of Maayimuna “Muna” N’Diaye.

“I haven’t seen or spoken to my daughter in 15 months,” said Hunter. “I am hoping when I arrive the embassy will facilitate a meeting with her right away.”

Hunter was informed of the forthcoming June 13, 2013, preliminary hearing by overseas correspondence and hopes to petition the judge to schedule another court date while she is still in the country.

A risky flight

The flight will cost somewhere in the region of $2,500 and fundraising initiatives by the close-knit Morehead community are already underway, she adds.

Hunter’s 5-year-old was allegedly kidnapped by her father and taken to his native Mali days after Christmas in 2011. Her ex-husband, according to Hunter, failed to bring Muna back after scheduled days with his daughter.

The FBI later confirmed father and daughter had illegally traveled one-way from JFK Airport to Bamako, Mali, West Africa. This prompted Interpol to issue a yellow notice for Muna and blue notice for N’Diaye.

Hunter’s ex-husband, who had permanent resident status in the U.S., now has a warrant out for his arrest. Muna has dual citizenship both in the U.S. and in Mali.

Speaking to theGrio last month, Hunter said her Muslim ex-husband, who is from a powerful and politically well-connected family, took matters into his own hands by refusing to accept the initial joint custody ruling.

When things broke down he did not want to obey the laws of the United States and “decided to follow the rules of his own country and traditions,” she said.

Nonetheless, despite her uphill struggle Hunter said she has received heartfelt support from family, friends, Mali officials and U.S state leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Congressman Harold Rogers.

Meeting the first lady of Mali

Earlier this week Hunter had the opportunity to have a private conversation with the first lady of the Republic of Mali about her plight at an event at the residence of the Mali ambassador in Washington.

“This is the Mali that I know, kind, helpful, gracious, accommodating and upholding their sacred law of hospitality.”

In an interview with theGrio last month, Chris Schmidt of the U.S. law firm of Bryan Cave LLP said the problem of international parental child abductions in the States is rising because it is relatively easy to accomplish.

The situation is even more complicated because the Republic of Mali is not a signatory to the Hague Abduction Convention.

Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter at @Kunbiti