Messina Hospital

Gift of the Givers Announces Involvement in Stephan McGown Case

Gift of the Givers has agreed to assist the McGown family in securing Stephen McGown's release.  It is well understood that in situations like these there are no guarantees of success.  It has been a very tough and trying time for the family having waited 3 years and 7 months already since that fateful day of capture on 25 November 2011 in Mali.  A constructive effort has to be made to connect with the captors in order to commence meaningful dialogue.  Till now the McGown family does not know who the real captors are, what are the demands, where Stephen is held and who to communicate with.  We face that same dilemma on behalf of the McGown family but are putting systems into place to initiate that opening contact with the captors.

Malcolm had called me early in February last year after we succeeded in releasing Yolande Korkie's unconditional release from Al Qaeda. He asked if at some stage we could try and assist him secure his son's release.  He further went on to say that in no way does he want to distract us from focusing on Pierre Korkie's release and that he will wait until that issue reaches conclusion as it would not be fair to Yolande.  He said he understood her difficulty.  I could feel the pain and the hurt in this man's voice and would have loved to help him immediately but two complicated hostage situations at once would be irrational.  During the year Malcolm called several times to wish us well in trying to secure Pierre's release.  It took 11 months and soon after the tragic incident of Pierre's passing on 6 December 2014, I called Malcolm to say that my Johannesburg office manager was on his way to visit our office in Mauritania and that we could use that opportunity to see if something could be done for Stephen.  Malcolm was very excited but there was sadness in his voice.  He said "my wife is on oxygen and she would love to see Stephen soon".  A few days later she fell off the bed and fractured her hip and had to be rushed to hospital.  How could we not try to help?  My office manager, Allauddin Sayed, tried in numerous ways to contact many people in Mauritania but most of the influential people were away for the December period.  Over the next three months everyone promised assistance, exactly as in Yemen, but to no avail.

We had opted to work through Mauritania as we have an office there.  The door to Mali had to be through Mauritania as we were unknown entities in Mali.  In Mali we had no office, were not known by the government, media, tribal leaders or any groups and were not known by the population in general.  We had no record of humanitarian service to any sector of Mali society, had no Anas al- Hamati, and therefore, we had no LEVERAGE, unlike Yemen where we had a huge profile and an unprecedented history of social service to several sectors of Yemeni society. Who was going to trust us in Mali?  Who was going to assist us?  We had to work through Mauritania but even there at every turn we reached a dead end.

A new opportunity has afforded itself through the latest video released by the captors.  From the contents it was probably made in April 2015.  It has served as a catalyst for Gift of the Givers to make a more concerted attempt to assist the McGown family.  In the last 12 hours we have commenced some significant face-face meetings with spiritual and tribal leaders in West Africa and are busy with other initiatives which we will make public soon.  In the meantime we will welcome any assistance from any individual locally or internationally.  Through this media release we are requesting the captors to make direct contact with Gift of the Givers who are acting on behalf of the McGown family.