Gift of the Givers was appointed by the families on 23 June 2015 to try and secure the release of both hostages. We sent in a negotiator of Mali origin into various regions of Mali and Niger to "connect" with people who can show us the way. Mohamed Yehia Dicko, the negotiator, "went in" eight times, collectively spending more than 100 days and travelling several thousand kilometers in the deepest rural regions to achieve a breakthrough. He "found" two intermediaries who had a history of negotiating with AQIM. They agreed to put forward our case. We tried every effort to secure an unconditional release by enlisting the goodwill of tribal and religious leaders, winning over the rural populations through the humanitarian services we provided and even succeeding in convincing the intermediaries to put in a "good" word for us. All we achieved was reducing the ransom request from 20 million euros to 8.5 million euros, a figure that neither family can afford to pay. The South African and Swedish Government don't negotiate with terrorists nor do they pay ransom, as is the practice with most governments. That is very understandable. However, affected families are not prevented from taking any measure to reunite with their loved ones.
We have reached a dead end. The two families are now making an impassioned appeal to the King of Qatar for his intervention. The King has been successful in negotiating the release of many a hostage at the behest of diverse governments. The McGown and Gustafsson families are hoping that a similar intervention on their behalf, on compassionate grounds would be entertained; to wait 2000 days with no solution in sight is devastating to say the least. In the event we are not successful in this endeavour and the captors still refuse an unconditional release then the stark and unfortunate reality is that these two innocent family members are never coming home. We call upon any government, organization, individual or person with influence to assist us secure the release of Johan and Stephen in whatever capacity whether it means talking to AQIM, the King of Qatar or whatever. It's painful to witness the desperation and prolonged suffering of these two families. We make an earnest request to the King of Qatar to give these two families an audience and determine whether he can assist in this case. Our plea to anyone listening or reading, "please help if you can" and to the rest of society we request your fervent prayer for the successful outcome of a most arduous, uncertain, heartbreaking and grueling journey.
# We have also not made progress in finding South African photojournalist, Shiraaz Mahomed, captured in Syria 127 days ago. Till now no group has come forward nor are there any demands. The search continues.
Imtiaz Sooliman +27 832364029
Malcolm McGown + 27 824509411
Catherine McGown + 27 765586032
Victoria Gustafsson + 46 705584841
Gift of the Givers requests the prayer of all those willing to lend support in securing the release of the two hostages, Stephen McGown and Johan Gustafsson, held in captivity for 5 years today. It's been a tough and a rough ride for the two families. Supplication to the Almighty in whatever belief or universal system we follow is our special request to all humankind. The Gift of the GiversRead more
Our press release on 24 November 2015 confirmed that we had made contact with Al Qaeda in Mali. They were holding two hostages, South African, Stephen McGown, and Swede, Johan Gustafsson. We received a call on Friday, 20 November, and subsequent calls on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, where we were requested to personally collect video footage concerning the two hostages.
Our MaliRead more
A few minutes ago we received a call from a Gift of the Givers Volunteer who was caught up in the shooting in Mali. This was his communication:
"Hello doctor. This is ....(name not to be announced as yet). Thank you for your interest in our well being. We are fine now. We have been moved to a hotel in the capital Bamako and are under security protection. We haven't been briefed as yet as to what'sRead more
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 madeRead more
The current situation:
1. Our hostage negotiator, Yehia Dicko is in Mali right now.
2. At our request the intermediaries have arranged for letters, biscuits and sweets from the two families to be delivered to the hostages at the present time. The package was taken from us last week.
3. The captors have mentioned that we would receive a new video soon; the date and place they say will be
Tomorrow, 25 November 2015, is exactly four years since South African, Stephen McGown, and Swede, Johan Gustafsson, were taken hostage in Mali by Al Qaeda. Gift of the Givers, at the request of both families, got actively involved in June this year to try to make contact with the captors and find a way forward. A negotiator of Mali origin, Mohamed Yehia Dicko, was sent to Bamako on 10Read more
One of the most difficult aspects of hostage negotiations is not knowing with certainty who the captors are, where they are, what they want or how they can be contacted. Gift of the Givers is sending out a message internationally requesting the captors of Stephen McGown to connect with us so that we can commence the process of negotiations to free Stephen. Three years and seven months is anRead more