Distressed parents of Kenyan university students stuck in Sudan converge in a house in Kenya’s Wajir County while they wait for news of their stranded children in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.
The imminent end of a 72-hour cease-fire between Sudan’s warring forces has left many Kenyan parents extremely apprehensive, including Osman Mohamed.
“My son is among those still stranded in the university, and he confirmed to me that they are several of them who are waiting for communication from the embassy and they are yet to receive that information,” he said.
The first group of Kenyan evacuees arrived home aboard a Kenyan air force plane on Monday night from Paloich airport in South Sudan. The group of 39, including 19 Kenyan students, was evacuated following the unrest in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, which has resulted in hundreds of deaths.
“We started our journey two days ago from Khartoum,” said Abdi Hamza, an evacuated medical student at the International University of Africa in Khartoum, “and we came by bus to Kosti near the border, then from Kosti to Jodah. In Jodah we were received by the South Sudanese government.”
A promise to evacuate Kenyans
Kenya’s cabinet secretary for defense, Aden Duale, said Kenya was committed to ensuring the safe return of all citizens stranded in Sudan.
“We will make sure that aircrafts and all logistics are available to evacuate all Kenyans,” said Duale, while receiving the evacuees at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. “There are over 3,000 Kenyans held up in Sudan, and so far, we have mapped out 900 Kenyans in various parts of Khartoum and Sudan as a whole.”
Despite the Kenyan government’s efforts, parents of students still in Sudan have expressed fear and appealed to the government to evacuate them before fighting resumes.
“We are strongly appealing to the government to speed up the evacuation process so that at least before the extended time elapses, that at least all the students in Khartoum have been ferried to safer places,” Mohamed said.
Critic says Kenya ‘can do better’
Earlier this week, Kenya’s foreign affairs ministry told stranded Kenyans to register with its embassy in Khartoum in a bid to expedite a quick evacuation process.
But since Monday, there have been no further flights of Kenyans out of Sudan.
“The fact that out of the 900 that have been mapped you were only able to evacuate 35 shows you how small efforts [were],” said Ahmed Madey, an education researcher in Nairobi. “I think the Kenyan government can do better.”
Sudan’s armed forces and the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces on Monday agreed to a 72-hour cease-fire, triggering a rush of evacuations of hundreds of foreign nationals by Western, Arab and African countries.
As the cease-fire deal comes to its scheduled end, many Kenyan parents such as Mohamed fear for their loved ones — but hold out hope for a safe return home.