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Four Kenyans injured in Juba as others recount ordeal after rescue

By By ALLY JAMAH and JAMES MBAKA | December 24th 2013


NAIROBI, KENYA: The Government on Monday said four Kenyans suffered gunshot wounds in Juba during a shootout by security forces.

Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho said the Government will dispatch three planes and buses today to evacuate Kenyans.

He said they are targeting at least 250 Kenyans trapped in Bentiu, the capital the oil-rich Unity State that is under the hands of the rebels.

The PS said evacuating more than 1,000 Kenyans in the flashpoint town of Bor was tricky due to the constant fire that planes are subjected to by rebel forces allied to former Vice President Riek Machar.

But a Kenyan journalist based in Juba indicated that an estimated  30,000 Kenyans in the city are frustrated by what they term as slow process of evacuation by the government.

“We had expected that by now all Kenyans would have been evacuated from Juba, which is relatively safe and accessible to planes. But things are not moving as we had expected. The security situation in Juba can deteriorate any moment,” he said.

Yesterday, the national carrier Kenya Airways announced that it had  suspended flights to and from  Juba between December 24 and 31, leaving many passengers who had booked the flights in rude shock.

And like many Kenyans who moved into the world’s youngest State to eke out a living, Janet Okemwa’s father, a civil engineer, was in South Sudan in search of greener pastures, having left his family in Nairobi.

Three weeks ago, Okemwa travelled to Juba to visit her father but found herself trapped in the middle of the crisis that broke up a week ago.

And her quest for adventure in a foreign country was cut short after war broke out between two factions of soldiers, some loyal to former Vice President Machar who attempted a coup on President Salva Kiir’s government.

“I went there just after completing my KCSE examination. I had not even stayed for long,” said Okemwa who was among the 22 Kenyans evacuated from South Sudan on Saturday.

She recalls nasty scenes of soldiers shooting indiscriminately at people on sight in the fighting that has threatened to plunge the world’s newest nation into civil war.

 “I just watched as the soldiers shot two men and killed them on the spot,” she said, too terrified and fearful but joyous to be back at home.

She had great appreciation for local soldiers who secured their way into the airport where they boarded a military plane back to Nairobi.

For Okemwa, she would never want to return to South Sudan after what she saw. “Given a second chance I would never want to go there again. It is just too dangerous. It was so hard. There was a curfew so we had to stay in the house throughout.”

Her father Wilfred Okemwa is a businessman and construction contractor in South Sudan’s Juba and was caught up in the crisis occasioned by renegade soldier which caught them by surprise.

He was among the Kenyans who were rescued and are happy they finally managed to land back home safely.

Real estate

He said he had investment in the real estate amounting to over Sh100 million within Juba and hopes that peace will prevail in the war-torn country.

Like many other Kenyans and even Sudanese people, they thought South Sudan was finally on its feet enjoying the fruits of peace.

“All the other time it has been peaceful. We have not been having any problems at all. If there was any problem it was usually about some confrontations with policemen. Juba has been okay,” he recalled.

Okemwa hopes that efforts will be made to stop the war, which he described as “nasty and horrible”.

Already Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) dispatched some 4.7 tonnes of relief food and rescued more Kenyans trapped in the war-torn country after President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered them to do so.

On Saturday, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said two Kenyans had been killed and six others injured during the ongoing fighting in Juba and Bor, in the Jonglei state.

Another 1,000 Kenyans have sought refuge at the United Nations Mission compound in Bor and the Kenyan Government wants to bring them back to the country.

Anxiety has already gripped a village in Kisii county that has about 200 people in the war torn country.

“We hope they are okay. I have two sons in Juba but cannot communicate with them. We last talked on Suturday last week,” says Mary Ogembo from Magenche village.


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