Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 24, 2014

UPDATE: Morehead woman to testify before Senate committee

The Independent

MOREHEAD — A Morehead woman who has been fighting to return her daughter from Africa will travel to Washington to testify Thursday before a U.S. Senate committee on the subject of international child abductions.

Dr. Noelle Hunter, a speech and writing professor at Maysville Community and Technical College’s Rowan Campus, will be a member of a panel from which the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is scheduled to hear.

Hunter’s fellow panelists will be Ernie Allen, president and chief executive officer of the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children; David Goldman, co-founder and director of the Bring Sean Home Foundation of Lincroft, N.J.. whose son was returned to the U.S. after being abducted to Brazil; and Patrick Braden, CEO of Global Future: The Parents’ Council on International Children’s Policy of Los Angeles.

Susan Jacobs, special advisor for children’ issues with the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, also is scheduled to testify. The hearing will be chaired by Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Hunter’s daughter, Maayimuna (maya-moona) N’Diaye (en-jay), or Muna, for short, became the subject of an international custody dispute in late 2011 when her father, Ibrahim N’Diaye, left the country with the then-4-year-old in defiance of a  judge’s order.

Muna was taken by her father to the Republic of Mali, which is located in West Africa. The U.S. State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues subsequently verified the girl was living in Bamako, Mali, with her father.

According to Hunter, Ibrahim N’Diaye and the girl flew one-way to Bamako on Dec. 27, 2011, after Rowan Circuit Judge William Lane issued an order directing Ibrahim N’Diaye to share joint custody of the child with Hunter.

Ibrahim N’Diaye has U.S. permanent residency status and Muna, who’s now 6, is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Mali. The father was able to leave the country with the youngster despite Lane ordering the girl’s mother to retain her U.S. passport, Hunter said.

A warrant has been issued by the Rowan County Attorney’s Office charging Ibrahim N’Diaye with custodial interference. The charge is a Class D felony that carries a one- to five-year prison sentence.

Hunter has since visited her daughter in Mali, but, in July, a judge in Bamako ruled against upholding a Kentucky court order calling for Muna’s return.

Hunter said that when she leaned Thursday’s hearing was going to take place, she reached out to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office.

“A friend of mine in Washington has been following this issue very closely,” she said. “When she told me about it, I contacted my senator and asked if there might be an opportunity for me to speak on Muna’s behalf and for other parents who are living through this daily heartache,”

McConnell, in turn, contacted Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenneseee, a ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee. The minority staff on the committee then got in touch with Menendez’s staff and arranged for Hunter to be a panelist.

Hunter said she was looking forward to testifying on Thursday and was appreciative of the opportunity to address the committee.

“My goal is to share my experiences with Muna’s case and to offer recommendations for improving the process for how the federal government and agencies can better work with parents and related organizations to bring our children home,” she said.  

The hearing is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. and will stream live on the Internet at http://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/international-parental-child-abduction.

More information about Hunter’s efforts to bring her daughter home can be found online at www.mission4muna.com and on Hunter’s Mission4Muna Facebook page.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.