Date: December 7, 2022
Mozambique (MAF/MNN) — Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) urge officials in Mozambique to expedite the release of pilot Ryan Koher, a U.S. citizen who has been wrongfully detained in the country since November 4.
MAF also called on U.S. government leaders to do everything in their power to bring Koher home, and invited Christians around the world to pray for Koher’s safety and swift release.
“Ryan Koher did nothing wrong,” says MAF President and CEO David Holsten. “His wife and children deserve to have him back home in time for Christmas, and the organization that serves the orphans in northern Mozambique needs the supplies he was trying to deliver when he was wrongly detained.
I urge Christians around the world to pray for Ryan’s safety and swift release, and call on those in power both in Mozambique and here in the U.S. to do everything they can to resolve this wrongful detainment.”
Koher, 31, is a pilot for Ambassador Aviation Ltd. (AAL), which is a partner of U.S.-based non-profit MAF. He was detained in Mozambique November 4 along with two South African nationals – W.J. du Plessis, 77, and Eric Dry, 69 – on the apparent suspicion of supporting insurgents in the country. The two South Africans had brought in the supplies for the orphanages.
Koher was detained prior to piloting a charter flight to deliver supplies to orphanages near Montepuez, Mozambique. While conducting the normal security scan at the airport November 4, police took an interest in some supplies Koher was to deliver for the orphanages and adult staff.
Ruth Harrison, MAF’s Vice President of People, says, “There were vitamins, there were over-the-counter medicines, [and] there were food preservation things, which is really typical if you’re living in a very remote area and trying to care for a lot of adults and children in an orphanage-type situation.”
None of the confiscated material belonged to Koher nor had it been loaded onto the airplane. AAL has been conducting these annual supply charter flights to the orphanages since 2014.
Harrison says at first the detainment wasn’t too concerning as they worked with local authorities, but then Koher was transferred to a maximum security prison.
“So that really changed our perspective of saying we’re in a much more serious place here,” Harrison says. “We still can’t get clarity on why he’s being held. We couldn’t find any evidence or any reason why it would warrant holding Ryan.”
The three men have been jailed on a still undetermined written charge, but there appears to be suspicion that, due to its destination in northern Mozambique, the flight was supporting insurgent activity. In actuality, Ambassador Aviation has long sought to care for those who have been harmed by the insurgency, including evacuating innocent residents following a March 2021 insurgent attack.
AAL has retained a lawyer for Koher and the U.S. Embassy is engaged in the situation. Embassy officials attempted to meet with Koher on November 16 but were denied access to him at a prison in Inhambane. AAL later learned Koher had been moved to the Machava High Security Prison near Maputo.
“Ryan is a caring and gentle individual,” Holsten adds. “Over the last couple of years, he and his wife have worked hard to learn the language and culture of Mozambique to better serve those who rely on our service. Understandably, this situation has been very challenging for the family.
We fully believe in Ryan’s innocence, and we are all praying that this issue will be resolved very soon with the charges dismissed and Ryan released.”
MAF’s security protocols required that his wife and young children return to the United States to allow for better care by the organization and family. Information about the Koher family can be found at https://maf.org/missionaries/koher.
Mission Aviation Fellowship began serving the people of Mozambique in 1999. In 2014, Ambassador Aviation became the operational entity as a registered charter service in the country.
Based out of Nampula with two aircraft, the Cessna 206 Koher was to pilot at the time of his detainment and a Cessna Grand Caravan, typical flights include medical care and evacuations through the MOZMED project, VAMOZ, a Mozambican humanitarian volunteer organization, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and JOCUM (YWAM).
In 2021, AAL evacuated over 800 people from Afungi following insurgent attacks on Palma in the Cabo Delgado province. They also provided 24,476 kg (approximately 54,000 lbs.) of food, medicine, and relief supplies to the area. AAL delivered 29 aid workers, primarily from VAMOZ, and 32 medical workers, the majority from the Mozambican Ministry of Health. In addition, medical evacuation flights were conducted in the area for several months in late 2021 and early 2022 as the region recovered from the attacks.
In 2019, AAL provided a disaster assessment by air following Cyclones Idai and Kenneth and conducted 184 relief flight legs, delivering over 45,000 kg (about 99,207.9 lbs.) of cargo and 691 passengers as part of the humanitarian assistance response.
Header photo featuring Ryan Koher, Annabel Koher, and their two boys. (Photo courtesy of MAF, used with permission from the Koher family.)