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Hundreds of East Africans evacuated from Sudan as fighting rages

Monday May 1, 2023



Kenyan and Somali citizens wait to be processed on April 24, 2023 by immigration officials at JKIA after being evacuated aboard a Kenya Air Force plane to flee the deadly conflict in Sudan's capital Khartoum. PHOTO | TONY KARUMBA | AFP

More than 800 East Africans have successfully been evacuated from Sudan as the conflict rages on with multiple casualties reported and several others injured, spiralling into a humanitarian crisis.

Two weeks into the conflict, governments in the region have deployed their military organs and national carriers to rescue stranded citizens through neighbouring countries as Sudan’s airspace remains closed, but many who were unable to make it to the borders remain stuck.

Kenya kicked off evacuation efforts on Monday, when a Kenya Air Force plane was dispatched to South Sudan’s border with Khartoum to evacuate Kenyans, mostly students, who had travelled there by road. It returned with 39 passengers – 19 Kenyans, 19 Somalis and an Arab.

On Wednesday, another 342, including diplomats and employees of regional and multilateral organisations, were moved through Jeddah, Saudi Arabia using Kenya Airways and UN planes.

Another 63 Kenyans were evacuated through Gondar in Ethiopia – near its border with Sudan. They arrived on Thursday, bringing the total rescued so far to 424, meaning that 2,576 Kenyans remain stranded in Sudan.

Register for proper planning

Top government officials, including Foreign and Diaspora Affairs Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua, have said the State is committed to rescuing all Kenyans from the war-struck Sudan, urging them to register with the State Department of Diaspora Affairs for proper planning of their evacuation.

On Monday last week, Roseline Njogu, Principal Secretary at the State Department of Diaspora Affairs, said they had set up a multi-agency team to monitor the situation in Khartoum and support Kenyans through humanitarian assistance and emergency evacuation.

Kenyans and Somalis arrive at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi after being evacuated from Sudan's capital, Khartoum on April 24, 2023. Regional bloc Igad is asking Sudan’s warring generals to extend ceasefire to the end of the month PHOTO | TONY KARUMBA | AFP

“We are committed to ensuring all Kenyans are safely rescued and brought home should the situation warrant it,” Ms Njogu said told journalists on April 17, two days after war broke out in Sudan.

Hired aeroplane

Tanzania has also managed to evacuate a vast majority of its citizens from Sudan. The Foreign Affairs ministry on Thursday said Dar has shut its embassy in Khartoum and brought home most of the diplomatic staff and citizens.

Dar’s ambassador to Sudan, Silima Kombo Haji led a team of 206 of the 210 Tanzanians in Sudan, by road to Gondar for evacuation. They landed at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam Thursday afternoon.

The remaining four were not immediately available on time, Haji said, adding that they are safe despite the war.

Stergomena Tax, Tanzania’s Minister for Foreign Affairs said the State hired a small plane to ferry the evacuees from Gondar to Addis Ababa, where the ATCL plane could have enough space to land.

A convoy leaving Khartoum advances on a road towards Port Sudan, on April 23, 2023. PHOTO | ABUBAKARR JALLOH | AFP

Travelled by bus

Uganda also successfully evacuated 211 of its citizens on Thursday, through the Bahir Dar airport in northern Ethiopia, where they had travelled to by bus from Khartoum on Wednesday.

The evacuation was executed by a team constituting officers from the External Security Organisation and Uganda’s embassy in Khartoum, coordinated by the presidential advisor on special duties Muhoozi Kainerugaba.

Currently, 89 Ugandans are still holed up in Sudan, and plans are underway to rescue them as well.

“Those who are yet to come, the few who are remaining there, we shall put in place plans to try and get them out as well,” Muhoozi said while receiving the first set of evacuees at Entebbe on Thursday.

South Korean nationals on April 24, 2023 arrive by military aircraft at Jeddah airport in Saudi Arabia from Port Sudan. PHOTO | SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENTIAL PALACE | AFP

Ethiopian help

Meanwhile, more than 50 countries across the globe have requested Ethiopia to help them evacuate their nationals from Khartoum, even as many foreigners continue fleeing into the countries’ western regions, including Amhara, near the border with Sudan.

Amhara’s regional communications office on Thursday said citizens from at least 23 countries have fled the conflict in Sudan and entered Metma Yohannes city in West Gondar zone of the Amhara region.

As the war in Sudan intensifies, Addis says it expects an influx of foreigners fleeing the war and seeking to be evacuated back to their countries. The Sudan conflict has so far claimed more 450 lives and left about 4,000 with injuries.


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