NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 11 – The Kenya Airline Pilots Association has called for a suspension of commercial and chartered flights to South Sudan in efforts to free Kenyan pilots captured on January 9.
South Sudanese rebels have vowed they will not release the pilots until compensation is paid to the family of a civilian killed when their plane crashed in Akobo, in the Greater Upper Nile region.
“We urge all Kenya commercial and charted flights operators to withhold flights into and within the North-Eastern Upper Nile State until such a time as our Kenyan colleagues are released, and the security of Kenyan pilots, as well as Kenyan-registered aircraft within the region is guaranteed,” the association’s acting General Secretary Captain Murithi Nyagah stated.
He added the Sh20 million ransom that the rebels are demanding is beyond normal compensation for any person killed in commercial aviation practice.
“While we appreciate that the compensation would be a natural requirement in the face of human and property losses, the continued captivity of the two Kenyan pilots is in total contravention of their human rights and poses a potential risk to their health and well-being. Further, and in line with the laws governing commercial aviation practice, there are laid-out mechanisms in resolving disputes and advancing conversation on compensations and the two pilots should not bear the brunt of this unfortunate incident,” read the KAPA statement.
Captain Nyagah renewed its plea with the government through its embassy in Juba to step up negotiations to secure the release of Captain Frank Njoroge and co-pilot Kennedy Shamalla.
Kenya’s Ambassador to South Sudan last month initiated negotiations with South Sudan’s Transport Minister John Luk in Juba to chart a forward in securing the release of the pilots.
The two pilots were captured by Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) rebels when their plane crashed following a technical hitch.
A woman and 11 cows died in the accident. The pilots and nine passengers suffered minor injuries.