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November 19, 2018

Uhuru intervenes to have four Kenyans in S Sudan released

President Uhuru Kenyatta holds talks with his South Sudan counterpart President Salva Kiir at State House, Nairobi.Photo PSCU
President Uhuru Kenyatta holds talks with his South Sudan counterpart President Salva Kiir at State House, Nairobi.Photo PSCU

After more months of diplomatic negotiations, four Kenyans held in South Sudan are set to return home today.

President Uhuru Kenyatta managed to secure their release last week following a meeting with his South Sudan counterpart Salva Kiir in Nairobi. Kiir attended Uhuru’s inauguration and the two leaders later held bilateral talks where the Kenyan President is said to have made the request. Kenyan ambassador to South Sudan Cleland Leshore and Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed have been involved in diplomatic negotiations over the matter.

But with the South Sudan government standing its ground, sources say that Kenya decided that Uhuru directly engages Kiir to secure their release.

“There has been a lot of negotiations over the matter, but, as Kenya, we were careful not to jeopardise this by publicly making comments over the matter,” a senior government official said. Yesterday morning, a delegation led by Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Monica Juma travelled to Juba where they were to be engaged in the release process. It is yet to be established whether Anthony Keya, Boniface Muriuki, Ravi Ghaghda and Anthony Mwadime will be tried afresh after they arrive in this country.

Sources within government, however, tell the Star the matter is likely to stretch the relationship between the two countries if Kenya does not institute charges against the four. South Sudan is said to want Kenya to open charges against the four under Kenyan laws, which is also said to be one of the conditions set for the release.

Kenya’s argument in the negotiations is that the four were never accorded a fair trial even after the Appeal Court in Juba ordered a re-trial. The four were arrested in Juba on May 29, 2015, alongside 12 others - mostly South Sudanese nationals, and jailed for suspected fraud. In June of 2016, they were convicted of stealing Sh1.4 billion ($14 million) from President Kiir’s office. The suspects were held for more than 40 days without being interrogated. The four worked for Click Technologies Company, with Ravi serving as a business development manager, Muriuki as a sales and development manager, while Keya and Mwadime were employees.

In March, Amina told Parliament she would follow up the matter but the families of the four said no action had been taken. “The Kenyans have been condemned when there is no evidence adduced in court linking them to the alleged crime. The government is considering a range of diplomatic measures to ensure these Kenyans are freed and come back home,” Amina said in her statement to Parliament.

Kenyan diplomats say the case is “extremely sensitive” due to the “colossal amounts involved” and aspects touching on the office of the South Sudan President. Their families accused the government of failing to put in enough effort to have the four released.

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