Stephen McGown, an ordinary South African, was held hostage by Al-Qaeda in Mali for just short of 6 years. He was 36 years old at the time he was kidnapped from Timbuctoo along with a Dutch and Swedish national.
During this period, Stephen lived far from civilisation, kept deep in the Sahara away from the searching eyes of French surveillance planes and drones. He had limited communication with the outside world – including his family in the first 6 months of his captivity. That then ceased altogether once the French military forces arrived in Mali.
Living outdoors, he learnt a variety of survival skills – including how to protect himself from the extreme elements – but most of all he learned how to stay alive and positive when everything was stacked against him. Uncertain as to whether he would ever be released or die in the Sahara, he made a decision to not let life’s problems get the better of him, but rather to be in control of what he could.
Stephen was finally released in August 2017 and is now in the process of getting his life back together.
Stephen is from Johannesburg where he went to school and attended university. Having spent 7 years in the UK after finally acquiring dual nationality, he and his wife were to return home to start a family and run his family’s farming business.
This is at last a reality.