Abducted Kenyan pilots freed after payment of Ksh.11M ransom


Abducted Kenyan pilots freed after payment of Ksh.11M ransom
Captain Frank Njoroge (middle) at Wilson Airport after he arrived in Kenya one month after being captured by South Sudan rebels

In Summary

  • Emotions ran high after two Kenyan pilots who were abducted by Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) returned back to the country.
  • The two  were released following month long negotiations between South Sudan and Kenyan government officials.
  • Captain Njoroge and Mr. Shamalla were captured after their plane crashed into a region controlled by the rebels on January 24.

Emotions ran high after the plane carrying two Kenyan pilots who were abducted by Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) rebels for close to a month landed at Wilson Airport on Tuesday.

The two; Captain Frank Njoroge and Co-pilot Kennedy Shamalla were released following month-long negotiations between South Sudan and Kenyan government officials. On hand to receive them were their families, friends and Government officials.

Captain Njoroge and Mr. Shamalla were captured after their plane crashed into a region controlled by the rebels on January 7, 2018. During the crash, one person and livestock were killed prompting the rebels to demand for compensation.

Sources indicate that they were released after the family paid the Ksh.11 million ransom that the rebels were demanding. The rebels had initially demanded Ksh.20 million before negotiations.

Speaking at Wilson Airport, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma termed the abduction of the two pilots as unfortunate saying that the two pilots were illegally detained.

“The pilots of the two families have suffered emotional and psychological distress during the period in which they were abducted. We condemn the capture and detention of the pilots in the strongest terms possible,”said CS Monica Juma.

According to the ministry, the two pilots have come back to their families emaciated and severally ill.

After their release, the two arrived in South Sudan’s capital in Juba on Monday eventually arriving at Wilson Airport at 2pm.

In an interview with a Kenyan newspaper the same day they were abducted, the Governor of Akobo, the region controlled by (SPLA-IO) said that the pilots would not be released until the ransom was paid.

He was categorical that the only other circumstance that the pilots would be released is if exiled former Vice President Riek Machar ordered for their release.

South Sudan continues to be in a state of civil war which broke out in 2013 after President Salva Kiir fired Mr. Machar.

 

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Story By Wahome Gitonga
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