Sophia arrived at the Student’s Education Centre on that fateful Wednesday afternoon with two travel companions and their tour guide. She apparently went to the latrines, some forty metres away from the room but never returned.
Marije Slijkerman has made 18 trips now to Uganda from The Netherlands in search of the whereabouts of her
daughter Sophia, a medical student who worked as an intern in Rubaga
Hospital in Kampala. She went
missing from the Student’s Education Centre at Murchison Falls National Park on
October 28th, 2015.
Sophia checked in at the Student’s Education Centre on that fateful Wednesday with two fellow students and their
tour guide. It is said she went to the latrines, some 40 meters away from their room,
but she never returned.
Several searches were mounted
by Ugandan security forces and Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers at the time but to date, Sophia is
Some of her
belongings were recovered along the riverbank,
more than 40 hours after Sophia’s disappearance. Pieces of her trousers
were found, some tied to
branches on the ground, her knickers hanging high up in a tree, prescription sunglasses, one shoe, two insoles, and a small African purse.
spread out over about 45 meters and left more questions than answers.
Ideally, the items would have pointed
to Sophia's whereabouts but they
family has been living with the uncertainty of not knowing what happened to their missing
daughter and sister for all this time now. Her mother is not about to
give up until she gets some kind of closure.
Slijkerman has met president,
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, top army generals, Ministers, security officials, and local leaders in her quest to
find her daughter. Speaking to URN last week, with tears coming from her eyes, Slijkerman, said that to date, she is still in a state of shock and disbelief about the whole situation and what
could have happened to her daughter.
She, however, does have a feeling that someday, her
daughter will show up. The
life of her family has never been the same after Sophia, their daughter, and
sister disappeared in Uganda.
//Cue in: “Well we have…
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says words like pleasure and joy have lost most of their meaning for her but she does her very best to be
a good mother to her two sons, both students, who of course miss their sister
very much as well. Sophia is always there in her mother’s mind and heart.
//Cue in: “We miss her…
Cue out:…laugh any more”//
Not knowing if
Sophia is alive, where
she could be, under what circumstances, and how she is being treated, is the toughest thing
Slijkerman ever has had to
deal with. She feels she has been on an emotional roller coaster all this time and it never stops.
Slijkerman knows very well that she is not alone; she is aware there are many other people who have missing relatives or friends.
She says that losing a child
is the hardest thing that can happen to someone but not
knowing what happened to your child is the toughest.
“If a child is knocked dead by a car, you will never get over it, but you do know what happened, you
can say your final farewell and you can try to find some form of closure,” She said. “When your child goes missing, you have
nothing, it is an ongoing trauma, it eats you up inside, the continuous
struggle between hope and despair, there is no closure, it devastates you.”
//Cue in: “A missing child…
Cue out:…drive you crazy,”//
Slijkerman says that Sophia is an intelligent girl who thrived and
scored highly on Science
subjects in school and effortlessly passed all her medical exams. Sophia
believes in always doing her very best and
thoroughly enjoyed her internship experience in urban Uganda.
Some of the people she worked
with referred to her as a doctor born naturally.
Sophia had planned to spend eight weeks doing her
internship, another 17 days traversing the country before flying back to the Netherlands.
To this day she has not come
home. Her mother takes trips several times each year in her search. She says as a mother, she
does not have the feeling that her daughter is gone.
//Cue in: “It is a…
Cue out…is my fate,”//
Sophia’s mum feels more can be done than
has been done up to now. She knows when nothing is sure, everything is possible
but an attack by a wild animal can be ruled out. Nothing points in that
direction, no indication of a struggle, no blood traces, and no remains were
found after Sophia’s disappearance.
She is a good swimmer so drowning seems
unlikely. Although the search for Sophia has been unsuccessful till now, Slijkerman thinks her missing
child's story must be kept
alive so she writes articles and speaks with media, both in Uganda and at home
in The Netherlands. And hopes her daughter will return home one day.
//Cue in: “But I am…
Cue out:…absolutely no option”//
In as far as investigations are concerned, in 2019 the Director of Public Prosecution requested
a fresh investigation, not ruling out anything. This investigation is still
says that up to now no real
leads have come up but there is hope it will. And that one-day Sophia will be
back where she belongs, in Amsterdam, with family.
//Cue in: “A private DNA…
Cue out:…took them to”//
Slijkerman says that although the investigations were moving slowly, her meeting
with President Museveni in January 2020 helped expedite the investigations. Unfortunately, things slowed down
considerably again after the pandemic hit but they did not entirely come to a
She hopes her
recent visit will make a difference again and that one day the search
for her daughter will be successful
and they can all have a normal life again.