Sunday, March 25, 2012

Wetang’ula rescued from Mali coup hell

Wetangula returns from troubled Mali
By DAVE OPIYO dopiyo@ke.nationmedia.com

Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang’ula arrived in Nairobi on Sunday evening after being evacuated from the Malian capital of Bamako, where soldiers have deposed their president.

His plane landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport shortly after 7.10pm from Lagos, Nigeria, where he had been taken after the evacuation.

He was in the company of Zimbabwean Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and five other Kenyans.

Addressing a press conference at the airport, the minister said he was happy to be back home.

“Staying in a hotel room for all that time was not easy, but through prayers by Kenyans, it was well with us,” he said.

Mr Wetang’ula said the Mali chaos should be a lesson to Africans not to take peace for granted. (SEE IN PICTURES: Mali unrest)

“This should be the last time such a coup takes place anywhere in the continent. It is not fair for young excited soldiers to drive democratically elected leaders out of office,” he said.

Earlier, a statement from his ministry said: “The minister for Foreign Affairs was last (Saturday) night safely evacuated from Bamako, Mali.

“The government successfully managed to charter a flight to evacuate the minister after securing clearance from the Mali military authority in charge. (READ: Mali coup leader pledges safe release of Kenyans)

“The government officials accompanying the minister and two other Kenyans were also evacuated and were on the nine seater chartered flight.

“The government also chartered another flight from Dakar, Senegal, to evacuate the remaining Kenyans and we are still waiting for details from Dakar.”

Others evacuated are Mr Anthony Safari, Mr Gilbert K Ng’eno, Mr Boniface Munzala, Mr Dickson Omosa and Mr Michael Odera.

Mr Wetang’ula gave an update of his location on Facebook on Sunday morning: “Thank God! We have been evacuated from Bamako by a GoK chartered plane.

“We have arrived in Lagos, Nigeria, and enthusiastically received by Kenyans led by the KQ manager in the region, my good old friend Mr Maundu. We thank you all. We take a KQ flight in the morning for Nairobi arriving 6pm.”

A subsequent Facebook posting stated: “ It is amazing how the soldiers who were shooting all around us upon receiving no-nonsense messages from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and AU Commission chair Jean Ping to not only ensure our safety but also give us safe passage suddenly turned up in large numbers (close to 100) to escort us to the airport.

“In fact, my car with the colleague from Zimbabwe was driven by the Commissioner of Police. This did not take away our fear as both him and his mate adorned two guns each. Never mind we are now safely away.”

Mr Wetang’ula gave up a seat on a United Nations plane on Friday night for Mr Boniface Kaberia, the regional coordinator for Winrock International, an NGO.

“I travelled to Bamako on a Saturday to help our office in Mali refocus our work plan. All went well but on the day I was meant to leave the country, hell broke loose; there was a coup,” Mr Kaberia told the Nation on arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Sunday morning.

Mr Wetang’ula had attended an African Union peace and security meeting in Bamako when the soldiers seized power on Wednesday and ordered the borders and airspace closed.

The 54-member AU condemned the coup and suspended Mali until it restored democratic rule.

Mr Wetang’ula posted a message on Facebook late on Wednesday saying fighting broke out in Mali’s capital city, Bamako, just as he was about to leave his hotel for the airport.

The message said in part: “A coup d’état has taken place in Mali as I was about to leave for the airport. May not be able to leave. Airspace closed. Pray for me.”

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