Being Evacuated – not on my bucket list!
Well I have safely arrived in Frankfurt, Germany. It was quite challenging getting out of South Sudan but thanks to the efficiency of the U.S. government, I was able to secure a seat on one of the planes that was charged with evacuating American citizens. Initially, my organization tried to depart on Wednesday afternoon but the South Sudanese government was sending conflicting signals about who could fly out of the airport. The President of South Sudan and the Minister of Information were asking citizens to return to business as usual as the government had “put down” the attempted coup. But at the same time, gun fire could still be heard in the distance. The Government of South Sudan (GoSS) did not want ex-patriots (ex-pats) leaving the country in mass numbers because it would send the signal that the country was in crisis (which it was – and still is).
My colleagues and I gathered at our office on Wednesday to start the process of traveling to the airport. We had heard reports that the road from our compound to the airport was clear as the fighting was concentrated on the other side of Juba. However, as we were loading the Land Cruisers, word came that the company did not want to send in an aircraft because they feared that GOSS would not allow the aircraft to takeoff. So we were told that the flight was rescheduled for Thursday morning. It was a demoralizing blow as we were all prepared and ready to leave South Sudan. While our compound was never threatened or near the fighting, the constant gun fire and explosions and the unconfirmed reports that were being reported on twitter were unnerving and emotionally draining. There were reports of people being arrested that I had recently worked with on various political workshops. The situation in South Sudan was (and continues to be) deteriorating and you did not know who was next on their target list. In my eyes, it was best to leave the country. In addition, the U.S. advised U.S. citizens in South Sudan to leave as soon as possible and the U.S. government would be providing planes to take citizens out of the country.
An hour after our flight was canceled, word was sent to our office by the U.S. Embassy that there was a plane leaving later that evening that would be taking U.S. citizens to Nairobi. A colleague and I were urged to go to the airport and register with the flight. At around 2:00pm we headed to their airport and were able to get on the last U.S. flight out of Juba. It was a chaotic experience managing Juba’s tiny airport terminal. The plane took off at 5:45pm and landed in Nairobi at 7:15pm. I was happy to be out of South Sudan but sad to leave my South Sudanese colleagues who would have to continue to live through this deadly situation. However, Peter, one of our organization’s drivers told us that once the Uganda/South Sudan border was reopened, people would be flooding out of South Sudan into Uganda – which many people were planning to do for the Christmas holidays. My ex-pat colleagues were able to catch the flight out on Thursday and arrived in Nairobi later that afternoon. We were reunited in the hotel.
South Sudan is in desperate need of prays…
- Please pray that this political crisis will come to an end very soon. The citizens of South Sudan are a war-weary people and in desperate need of a government that desires peace over conflict.
- Please pray for selfless leaders who are willing to put country and citizens first and not their political career.
- Please pray that the South Sudanese citizens are able to return to their homes without violence and retribution.
I will be posting pictures soon from the evacuation process. I have been unable to access my computer.