Kenyan union calls for release of two captive pilots in S. Sudan

Source: Xinhua| 2018-01-31 22:07:30|Editor: Lifang
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NAIROBI, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- Kenyan pilots on Wednesday called for immediate release of two of their colleagues who were arrested by the rebels in South Sudan early January.

Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) expressed great concern about continued detention of the two pilots following an unfortunate accident involving a Cessna Caravan aircraft, 5Y-FDC, in South Sudan on Jan. 7.

"We call on the Government of Kenya, and all other parties involved in the negotiations with the Government of South Sudan, to fast-track the immediate release of the two Pilots," KALPA Acting Secretary General Captain Murithi Nyagah said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

The two pilots - Frank Njoroge and Kennedy Shamalla - have been in captivity for more than three weeks, following the plane crash in Akobo, in the Greater Nile Region.

South Sudan's army (SPLA) said on Jan. 23 that the rebels allied to former First Vice President Riek Machar are demanding 200,000 U.S. dollars compensation for losses suffered as a result of the crash in order to release two Kenyan pilots being held in the war-torn country.

SPLA spokesperson Lul Ruai Koang said the SPLA-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) are demanding hefty blood compensation that exceeds traditional limits for the release of the two pilots in rebel captivity after their plane crashed on Jan. 7 in Akobo area in the northern Upper Nile region killing one person and cows.

"The required blood (compensation) money according to Nuer tradition is 50 cows but what they are demanding for is very high," Koang said in Juba, adding that the 200,000 dollars being demanded by rebels is exorbitant and breaks with tradition.

"While we appreciate that 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 wellbeing," Nyagah said.

"Further, and in line with the laws governing commercial aviation practice, there are laid out mechanisms for resolving disputes and advancing conversations on compensation, and the two pilots should not bear the brunt of this unfortunate incident," he added.

Nyagah urged all Kenyan commercial and chartered flight operators to withhold flights into and within South Sudan until such a time the two pilots are released, and the security of Kenyan pilots, as well as Kenyan-registered aircraft within South Sudan airspace is guaranteed.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between President Salva Kiir and Machar led to fighting that pitted mostly Dinka ethnic soldiers loyal to Kiir against Machar's Nuer ethnic group.

The 2015 peace agreement to end the violence was again violated in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital forcing Machar to flee into exile.