It has been over a month since two Kenyan pilots were seized by rebels in South Sudan after their plane crash-landed, killing one person. Captain Frank Njoroge and his co-pilot Kennedy Shamalla are being held by rebels in Akobo, in the Greater Upper Nile region.
The rebels are demanding $200,000 in compensation for the family of a local woman who was killed in the accident on January 9.
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But the Kenya Airlines Pilots Association has argued that the money being demanded by the rebels is too much while the capture of its colleagues is “in total contravention of their human rights and poses a potential risk to their health and well-being”.
The Association asked fellow pilots not to fly in or out of the area.
“We urge all Kenya commercial and chartered flight 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 said as quoted by news portal capitalfm.co.ke.
Their plane suffered technical problems before the accident and came down a few minutes after takeoff on that day.
On board were nine employees of a South Sudanese NGO who were returning to the capital Juba after a mission in the rebel-held region of Akobo, close to the Ethiopian border.
The passengers and pilots sustained minor injuries but a local woman died in the process. The plane also hit two cattle pens, killing 11 cows in the process.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Army -In Opposition (SPLA-IO) has been fighting the government for four years, in a civil war that has caused tens of thousands of deaths and more than a million displaced.
South Sudan gained independence in 2011 but a power struggle between former vice president Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir in 2013 led to a civil war.
A peace deal collapsed in July 2016 after fighting resumed in Juba and forced then first vice president Machar into exile.