NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 18 – They left Kenya with hopes that the grass was greener on the other side.
They packed big suitcases and carried all their savings knowing that their lives would be better in South Sudan.
But some years later, most of them could hardly hold back their tears remembering that they had lost everything they had achieved.
They walked in with only hand luggage or a mere paper bag.
Those who had babies did not even have a chance to carry their change of diapers or clothes.
Upon arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, some of them broke down into tears.
Kenya Red Cross Society volunteers had already erected registration desks there to offer counselling, food and other immediate requirements.
“We thank God we are alive,” this was a statement repeated by most of the interviewees.
Lucy, who ran a computer business in Juba narrated how her business was broken into, computers stolen and the shop reduced to ashes.
“They stole everything inside and then set it on fire. There is nothing left. All the Sh500,000 that I sunk into that business is gone.”
The only thing she was happy about and will live to treasure, is that she survived the violence that had claimed 272 lives, mostly soldiers.
“We had no idea of what has been happening for the entire week. There was no radio, no television. All we could hear were gunshots at the palace. No one told us what was happening.”
Lucy was among the first 104 Kenyans who arrived from Juba on Saturday afternoon.
Her story was similar to that of many other Kenyans who narrated their sad and unplanned departure from Juba.
“All we did was to stay under our beds. Everywhere was dark. There was no power and generators had shut. The gunshots were loud. We could hear scary sounds of people wailing. We were helpless,” Lucy recalled.
One thing that kept running in her mind and those of other countrymen was why the government took so long to come to their rescue after the violence broke out last Thursday.
“Other countries moved in immediately after the violence started to rescue their citizens. We recorded our names with the Kenyan Embassy but nothing was being done until on Saturday when we were evacuated,” she recounted.
According to Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Monica Juma, Kenya had hoped that negotiations with South Sudan leaders would bring peace but on realising that the situation had not calmed, the government decided to start evacuating Kenyans.
Lucy said even though South Sudan authorities had reported that calm had returned, “there is too much tension. Many people were killed and even now you can feel there is no peace.”
By Sunday, 204 Kenyans had been evacuated and the government announced the process would continue until who those who want to return home are airlifted back.