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Kenyans held in South Sudan after contractor disappears

By Dalton Nyabundi | Published Thu, December 15th 2016 at 00:00, Updated December 14th 2016 at 23:30 GMT +3

Seven Kenyans are starving in a remote state in South Sudan following differences between their employer and a contractor.

The six construction workers and their site manager said they were living in confinement in the rebel-controlled Upper Nile State after the supplier blocked their attempts to leave following a fallout with a Kenyan contractor.

But the contractor blames their woes on the site manager. The supplier, a South Sudanese national, is demanding Sh3,123,578 ($30,561) he says the contractor owes him before allowing the seven to leave.

The seven men said efforts to contact the Kenyan embassy in Juba had been curtailed and they are now pleading with the Kenyan Government to protect and return them home safely.

Moses Ochieng, Samuel Kariuki, Richard Wanyonyi, Nicholas Ochieng, Michael Omondi, Samson Marindi and Martin Omondi said they had been living on alms since they were chased away from a construction site in Ariang following unclear termination of the deal between the contractor and the implementing organisation, Cordaid Foundation, two months ago.

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The six workers have taken refuge at a Dutch international non-governmental organisation in Fashoda while the site manager is being held hostage in the supplier's compound.

The workers said they were now anxious after the agency told them to find shelter elsewhere as it was closing the office for holidays.

"The Governor of Upper Nile County Johnson Olony told us we could not leave the state until the supplier is paid his claims by the contractor," said Michael Omondi, a 40-year-old carpenter.

He said the contractor, Charles Kangode, the managing director of CJ International Construction Company which took them to South Sudan, had not paid them for work done in June and July when his contract was terminated.

When reached for comment, the man at whom all fingers are pointing returned the blame to the site manager. He said "things were being solved" and the workers would be back home "once the work is finished".

"They are lying to you, I have sent Sh7 million above what was budgeted for this project because the money is misused," he retorted.

He accused his site manager of colluding with the supplier to embezzle funds meant for the project. Relatives in Kenya have expressed worry over their stranded kin.