As they disembarked, one man lifted his hands to the heavens repeatedly shouting, “God is good,” as another women clutched her son to her chest as she went down the stairs and onto Kenyan soil.
There was no walking or shouting for Emily Wasike however, as she was lifted off the plane wincing from the pain of a bullet wound in her foot.
Like thousands other Kenyans, she had travelled to South Sudan in search of the promised land only to find that the grass is not always greener.
“It’s not even been a year. A friend of mine told me there was a lot of money to be made over there but now I’ve come back home with nothing but the clothes on my back,” she said as she was wheeled off for a medical examination by the Kenya Red Cross.
“I was working in a hotel in Bentiu on Sunday when they (she’s not clear which faction) came in shooting. I was lucky I just got shot. The Eritrean women I was working with were raped,” she recounted.
Wasike is indeed one of the lucky ones as roughly 1,200 other Kenyans remain trapped in the Bor region from whence the Kenyan government has been unable to carry out any evacuations.
“We’re glad the United Nations has been able to get aid in and we have a charter plane on stand-by to carry out evacuations once we get an opening,” Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Karanja Kibichio said on Thursday.
Six-hundred others he said were being housed at the Kenyan embassy in South Sudan as Kenya Airways prepared to fly them out while boosting the food banks.
“We think the evacuation efforts will go on for a while because we understand that the numbers in Juba are continuing to increase and we are here to support the initiative for as long as it takes,” Kenya Airways Chief Finance Officer Alex Mbugua pledged.
And while Kibichio pegged the number of Kenyans who were resident in South Sudan at 10,000 he admitted that there were many who were unregistered and were therefore complicating rescue efforts.
“Almost half of them had not registered with the embassy. They just go to South Sudan and disappear. For example yesterday we had no one left at the Embassy following evacuations but now we have 600 more to ferry back home,” he said.
The 232 bring the number of those airlifted out of South Sudan to 1,000 as the government couples the rescue and aid efforts with diplomatic ones.
“We are trying to talk to Riek Machar. Very few people in the world have managed to talk to him. But we have an envoy from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and we are trying,” Kibichio stated as President Uhuru Kenyatta held talks with his South Sudan counterpart and Machar’s nemesis Salva Kiir.