Friday, 13 May 2016

The Price of Life

  Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan were kidnapped in Somalia.  I have written about Amanda's book, "A House in the Sky".  This is Nigel's story.
  The book is printed in Australia and very hard to find in Canada.  But I could not rest until I heard Nigel's thoughts.
   It is a very different book- mostly because it is not written by professional writers.  The language is crude and often confusing. 
   Nigel's sister and sister-in-law collaborated on this book.  I was very interested to read about the story from the point of view of the family, interspersed with Nigel's account of the kidnapping.
   The first thing that I noticed was the difference in their family situations.  Nigel had two brothers and a sister. Each of his siblings was married with three children.  They all lived close to the parents and Nigel had previously helped to build a large house for their parents.     
  When the kidnapping happened, Nigel immediately recognized the seriousness and was very worried about his family.  He was the youngest child in his family and was a wandering playboy.  He had just spent time in Scotland with his girlfriend.  But Amanda was able to convince him to join her in Somalia.  She talked about projects that would help his photography career but he was also interested to see where the relationship with Amanda would go.
   The second thing that caught my attention was the complexity of an international kidnapping.  The family home in Australia was swarmed with officials of all sorts.  There were representatives from DFAT (Department of foreign affairs and trade), AFP (Australian Federal Police), QPol(Queensland Police), FLO (family liaison officer). This is the confusing part of the story because there are so many 'negotiators'.  The family use short forms for everything, so they talk about 'negs' for negotiators.
  Operations central was set up in the family home with the telephone in the centre.   The walls became filled with charts containing strategy for negotations- what to say, what not to say, how to answer questions, what questions to ask.  I didn't realize from Amanda's story that there was so much communication - not only with Adan (in Somalia) but with kidnap specialists all over. The negotiator in Nairobi kept changing. There was a TPI (Third party Intermediary) who went in person to negotiate with Adan in Somalia.  He offered $250,000.00 but that was refused.  Amanda's family was not offering any money, content that the government would look after it.
  Nigel's sister, Nicky, was trained to answer the phone calls.  The house was busy with people coming and going.  The family was completely consumed from the moment of capture.
  Members of all the groups were constantly changing as other people were brought in.  Eventually they moved 'operations central' out of the family home because there were grandchildren also running around.  The family was discouraged from using e-mail or cell phones because of security.  Also they were discouraged from fund raising or any form of publicity.  In Brisbane the 'negs' set up MIR (Major Incident room) and in Canberra there was ICC (Incident Coordination Centre).  There are many kidnappings every year and there are international negotiators.
  And so, the story rotates between the three authors- Nigel, Nicole (sister), and Kellie (sister-in-law).  
  Nigel tells how "guilt chews away at me".  He writes that Amanda was a powerhouse in the first week .  She did most of the talking while he struggled to come to terms with what was happening.  Perhaps Amanda was more nonchalant because she had already been kidnaped once for a short time and also she told Nigel that her mother had been held hostage 11 years before, in Japan.  This explains why Amanda was not as devastated as you would expect.
  But as Nigel writes further about their situation, you realize that he had a much, much easier time physically than Amanda.  After Amanda was separated from him, they found ways to communicate and he was aware of Amanda's abuse. 
  When it was getting close to a year since the abduction, with no progress and very little contact with Nigel, the family wanted to try a private negotiator.  They had researched and looked for  help in many places.  Nigel's aunt was willing to give them some money and she organized a trip to Vancouver with Kellie and Nicole to meet Amanda's parents and hopefully make a plan together.
  The actual final negotiations got very bizarre. Such a complicated country to be trying to make a plan that sticks!
  Another surprising thought is that you can go to jail for 25years to life for paying ransom.  So, getting the money out of the country and into the right hands was certainly dangerous.
  At one point, the sister-in-law that was doing all the work wondered why Nigel was in Somalia.  "I wanted to know if Nigel met up with Amanda to get his leg over.  If so, I hoped that shag was worth it cause it's been nothing but trouble for the rest of us".
   This book really added insight into the kidnapping.  I found it fascinating!

1 comment:

  1. A great review of this book. We found many of the same things interesting. I do wish they had included some sort of glossary of all the acronyms used in the book or even a flow chart of how all the organizations worked together. I got very confused with all the activity at the end as the ransom was being paid, but I was just glad to know it got paid and that they were safely released.