‘Ndege sio matatu’: Gov’t rules out evacuation of Kenyans abroad citing high cost

'Ndege sio matatu': Gov't rules out evacuation of Kenyans abroad citing high cost
Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Amb. Macharia Kamau. PHOTO| COURTESY

Kenyans living abroad will have to remain in the foreign countries amid the coronavirus pandemic that continues to ravage regions across the world.

This is after the government on Wednesday ruled out plans to facilitate transport for Kenyans wishing to return back home, citing cost and logistical challenges.

Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Amb. Macharia Kamau said it is impossible to charter flights to pick Kenyans stranded in various countries and bring them back home in the face of the current global crisis.

Appearing before the Parliamentary Defence and Foreign Relations Committee, Amb. Macharia said hiring a plane is not the same as hiring a matatu.

He told the committee that there are three million Kenyans abroad, further pointing out that evacuating a fraction of them, for instance 30,000 people, would be impractical.

“We have 3 million Kenyans out there. If we were to evacuate just one percent, those are 30,000 people. Just imagine the logistics. Our planes will have to criss-cross the globe. Just imagine bringing 30,000 people back. Do we even have the quarantine facilities?” posed Amb. Macharia.

“Those asking us to send planes, should know that it is difficult. Some Kenyans are Hungary, some in China, others in Italy. That means planes will be hovering all over the world. Ndege sio matatu bwana (A plane is not a matatu).”

The Foreign Affairs PS added: “Mr Chairman, truthfully, evacuation is not a viable option. I am sorry.”

Amb. Macharia said only the US, UK, Germany and Canada have so far evacuated their people, adding that the said citizens are being transported at their own cost.

He further disclosed that recently, an Emirates plane from the UAE was flying to Nairobi and the government asked the airline to carry some Kenyans who had been asking to be evacuated.

According to the CS, only 13 Kenyans showed up despite about 300 of them complaining online and saying they were willing to pay for their flights.

“The other day, an Emirates plane was coming to Nairobi and there were over 300 people shouting on social media, ‘evacuate us’, we are ready to pay. When the time came, only 13 agreed to pay. Only 13… I’d be the happiest person if there were people out there who would want to come back and pay for themselves.”

He said some Kenyans are living in areas that are on lock down, therefore, it would also be impossible for them to access any form of transport.

On the issue of Kenyans being stranded and being harassed in China, the PS said the situation has been exaggerated.

He said the Chinese government has apologised over the matter, but stated: “Maybe the reason why this (apology) hasn’t been known is because they haven’t apologized on social media.”

“The Chinese government has apologized. Maybe the reason why this hasn’t been known is because they haven’t apologized on social media. Chinese govt is not known to do things on social media. Maybe I’d advise them to apologize again and maybe louder,” said Amb. Macharia.

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