Kenyan pilots held by S Sudan rebels set to be released

Captain Frank Njoroge held hostage in South Sudan. []

Two Kenyan pilots held hostage by South Sudan rebels for over one month could finally be heading home after the Kenyan government brokered a deal to secure their release.

Captain Pius Frank Njoroge and co-pilot Kennedy Shamalla were flying a Cessna 5Y-FDC which crashed in Akobo, in the Greater Upper Nile region of South Sudan, on January 7.

This region is under the control of Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO).

The rebels were demanding for Sh20 million as compensation of the death of 11 cows and the death of one woman when the plane crashed.

The two pilots had nine passengers on board all of whom escaped with minor injuries.

The owner of the aircraft, Capt Godwin Wachira was optimistic that with the negotiations between the two parties, a figure for compensation has been agreed on.

“We are going there (on Saturday) to pick them and come back on Monday,” Said Captain Wachira as quoted by Daily Nation adding the issue is currently on the hands of Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Besides owning the ill-fated aircraft, Wachira runs the Flight Training Centre based at Wilson Airport.

He further revealed that the rebels went down on their demand figure and settled for Sh11 million.

“The demands have been met but not exactly the amount they earlier wanted. They went down a little bit to $107,743 (Sh11 million).

“Since the matter is now in the hands of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, they (ministry) will settle that and then bring them back. The ministry has agreed to do that,” he added.

The insurance company that covered the aircraft, UAP Old Mutual last week on Wednesday announced it will fast track the payment for liability so that the two pilots can be released.

“We are aware of the human angle to this claim. Because of that, we have decided to fast track the liability portion of this claim so that it can enable the owner of the aircraft to deal with any liabilities that may have arisen as a result of the incident,” said UAP Old Mutual managing director James Wambugu according to Daily Nation.

The release of the pilots will be a reprieve to their families who have been in agony especially with reports of ill-treatment by the rebels.