Mother flies to Mali to resume custody battle for her child

An African-American mother whose daughter was allegedly abducted by her estranged husband has laid eyes on her 5-year-old for the first time in eighteen months.

Noelle Hunter, from Morehead, Kentucky, flew into the Mali capital, Bamako, on Thursday and was briefly reunited with her child on Saturday afternoon under the watchful eye of her ex’s attorney.

“I held her some more, kissed her profusely, told her a little story that we’d made up together a long time ago,” Hunter writes on her Facebook page.

“After about an hour, I think, Ibrahim’s attorney told me in French that it was time to go. She understood that and she didn’t speak but she began to cry.”

Hunter was forced to make the trip to West Africa after she received correspondence stating that her ex-husband had filed for sole custody of their daughter in a Mali court. Prior to this recent development she claims her former spouse, Ibrahim N’Diaye, refused to even allow her to have any contact with their young daughter.

She is convinced the recent spate of media coverage, including reports on theGrio, highlighting her daughter’s disappearance prompted her ex to take action.

Maayimuna “Muna” N’Diaye was allegedly abducted by her father and taken to his native Mali days after Christmas in 2011. Her ex, according to Hunter, failed to bring Muna back after scheduled days with his daughter. At the time the two had joint custody.

Federal law enforcement flight searches later revealed that N’Diaye and his daughter illegally traveled on one way tickets 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, a former instructor at Morehead State University, now faces felony charges for “custodial interference.” Muna has dual citizenship both in the U.S. and in Mali.

The case renews concerns about the relative ease with which one parent can whisk a child out of the United States without joint parental consent because it is relatively easy to accomplish.

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

The forthcoming preliminary hearing is due to take place on June 6 and Hunter hopes to petition the judge to schedule another court date while she is still in the country. She has asked her Mali-based attorney to petition the judge to honor a U.S. Kentucky, January 13, 2012, sole custody order as well as a February 21, 2013, order for the immediate return of Muna.

Speaking to theGrio in March, Hunter said her Muslim ex-husband, who comes from an influential political family, refused to accept the initial joint custody ruling. When their relationship broke down he did not want to abide by the laws of the United States and “decided to follow the rules of his own country and traditions,” she said.

However, despite her uphill struggle Hunter has 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.

Speaking about her return to Mali, Hunter said, “Despite this painful reason for being here, I am in love again with Mali and all of its beauty, its poverty, its dust, its congestion, its motorbikes and especially its people.

“I was told by Ibrahim and others in his family that the laws of hospitality are sacred in Mali, and with one very notable exception, that is my ex-husband, every single Malian has fulfilled that sacred duty to its fullest.”

Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter at @Kunbiti

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