Wetangula back in Kenya after Mali ordeal

March 25, 2012 7:33 pm
Wetangula was stranded in a Bamako hotel for four days/XINHUA

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 25- Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula safely returned to Kenya on Sunday night after days of uncertainty in Bamako, Mali due to a military coup there.

The coup occurred on Wednesday causing instability in the West African nation that was due hold presidential elections next month.

“Africa should mature; the days of coups are gone. It is highly regrettable and irresponsible for young excited soldiers to take guns and drive out an elected government,” Wetangula told Journalists at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport upon his return.

“The president they have overthrown was not even standing for elections.  So to say he was holding on to power does not hold ground,” he added.

Wetangula returned home with five other Kenyans including a student aboard a Kenya Airways flight from Lagos, Nigeria where they spent Saturday night following safe evacuation from Mali.

He assured that other Kenyans left behind were safe and some of them were left out of their own volition.

“We have two families who said they don’t want to leave their Malian friends and assured us that they were under adequate protection. There was a Lieutenant General and three other military people who were on an African Union mission in Bamako and they also assured me that they are safe,” the minister explained.

He however said that there were two Kenyans who were willing to return and plans had already been made for their safe evacuation.

“My PS (Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Thuita Mwangi) had organised to charter another plane from Senegal to go and pick them up and any other Kenyan willing to return but the plane could not leave Senegal because it got late after it was hired to transport election material there… so the plane that took us to Lagos will be going back to pick them up and take them out of Mali,” he said.

The minister who was attending an African Union summit on peace and security when the coup occurred said the happenings in Mali should serve as a lesson for Africa and the world not to take peace and security for granted.

Wetangula and his Zimbabwean counterpart, alongside their officers, were holed up in a hotel in Bamako after a curfew was imposed. Negotiations initiated by the African Union later saw the junta allow temporary opening of the airspace for the stranded leaders to leave.

An earlier attempt to have them evacuated flopped on Saturday after the pilot of a chartered plane declined to fly into Mali, citing security concerns. The UN had also chartered a flight to evacuate staff from Bamako.

“A light UN plane was allowed in. One seat was available and offered to me but I declined to take the seat and gave it to one stranded Kenyan, a Mr Kaberia,” Wetangula wrote on his Facebook page.

“I found it difficult and immoral to jump on the plane to safety and leave my officers and other available Kenyans in uncertainty. We still await our date with fate. Goodnight Kenyan compatriots and friends,” he had said earlier.


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