Monday, May 27, 2024

Evacuated Kenyans from South Sudan arrives in Nairobi

Tens of Kenyans who were stranded in South Sudan were all joy following their evacuation from the war-ravaged country by the military on Monday.

The military plane landed at Wilson Airport in Nairobi shortly before 1 pm and another was expected later.

The Kenyans who lived and worked in Bor, where fighting has been intense in the past one week, including on Monday, looked visibly shaken and tired but expressed joy to be back home safely.

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The government has been evacuating Kenyans from South Sudan following an a coup attempt and fighting that has left thousands of people dead and scores others maimed and injured. More than 100,000 people have also sought refuge in UN camps.

The Kenyans, who were evacuated on Monday, were among thousands of foreigners who sought refuge at the UN Mission in Bor when the skirmishes started.

On Monday, the Kenyans spoke of their suffering since the fighting started on December 17 and being forced to stay without food for long.

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The lives they had built for themselves in Africa’s youngest nation were abruptly interrupted by conflicting political sides, forcing them to leave behind property they had toiled to acquire.

Mr Joseph Ndegwa, who operated a motorbike taxi in Bor, said the happenings of the past two weeks will remain a nightmare that he will try hard to forget.

He said he was going about with his business in a town near Bor on December 17 when he heard gunshots fired a short distance from him. Together with other Kenyans he managed to flee to the UN building where he has remained until Monday.

Mr Ndegwa remains haunted by the bloodied bodies that were still strewn along the streets on Monday.

“Food was a luxury that many of us had to do without at the safety camps we were holed in and the UN was no better. We were provided with adequate rations of water but had to forage for anything we could put in our mouths,” Mr Ndegwa said.

“I will never go back there,” he swore.

Mr Ndegwa’s house, like many others was looted.

Ms Joyce Nyokabi, 30, who has been in Bor for a year looked haggard and unkempt after spending two weeks at a UN camp.

Her ordeal began on the night of December 17 when she was suddenly woken up by the sound of gunfire rapidly approaching her home.

For her daily meal she had to jump over bodies to collect scraps of food that had fallen on the streets. She has two relatives still left in South Sudan, although she is hopeful that they will soon join her in the country.

For Hillary Luseno,30, there is no reason for him not to return to Bor. A former construction worker who now trades in the cloth business, South Sudan provided him with his sustenance. Despite the ‘hell’ he went through, he is willing to go back and resume his business.

Mr Eric Mwanzia who worked as a mason in Bor said the situation was so bad that “a friend could be killed as you watched.”

“The fight started in the town on December 18. There were shootings and looting of property. Foreigners were harassed and some beaten and killed. Some Kenyans were among those killed including one known as Karanja who was found burning charcoal in the bush. A Kenyan driver with an NGO and another lorry driver were also killed,” Mr Mwanzia said.

Mr John Kimani who operated a business in Bor thanked the United Nations for hosting Kenyans who sought refuge in its camp. He also thanked the Kenyan government for returning them home.

“I had stayed in Bor for long but things changed suddenly. I left all my belongings including a car in Bor and only carried spanners in a sack. I will never return to Sudan again. I only appeal to the government to assist us start small businesses here to restart our lives,” Mr Kimani said.

The Kenyans thanked the government for enabling them return home safely saying the area could erupt into “serious” war soon as reports indicated more than 25,000 youths armed youths were heading to the town.

Forces loyal to former Vice-President Riek Machar were last week driven out of Bor by government allied.

The UN said in Bor, where 15,000 civilians have sought shelter, conditions are “very challenging, especially in terms of health and water and sanitation.”

“There are few latrines within the site, and limited access to clean water. There are also urgent needs for food and shelter supplies,” according to the UN.

South Sudan President Salva Kirr and Mr Machar had by Monday not held talks to end the fighting despite an Inter-Governmental Authority on Development deadline for them to do so by

Some of the  Kenyans who were evacuated from South Sudan disembarks from a Kenya Defence Forces plane at Wilson Airport after their evacuation on December 30, 2013. Photo/EVANS HABIL

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