• The Kenya Airways flight touched down at 7.45pm with Biasha Ali the first to touch the Kenyan soil. Her 83 colleagues filed out of the plane 10 minutes later.
• The other 45 proceeded with their journey to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.
Tears of joy greeted 129 Kenyan university students on Saturday at Moi International Airport when they arrived from Khartoum, Sudan, where had been standed since the coronavirus pandemic was announced.
Parents, relatives, friends and local leaders waved at them before they were whisked away in three buses to the Kenya School of Government for quarantine.
Their Kenya Airways flight touched down at 7.45pm with Biasha Ali being the first to touch the Kenyan soil. Her 83 colleagues filed out of the plane 10 minutes later.
The other 45 proceeded with their journey to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.
“It feels so good to be back home after such trying moments,” Salim Bakari, a second year Finance and Economics student at International University of Africa, proclaimed.
The students were thoroughly screened before boarding the buses to KSG for quarantine.
Most countries, Kenya included, closed their airports after the declaration of coronavirus pandemic in mid-March.
The majority of Kenyan students in Sudan took medicine and related courses.
Baisher Idris Mohammed, the leader of Kenyan students at the university, said they were worried they would contract Covid-19.
“We thank God none of us got infected,” said the fourth year Petroleum and Minerals student.
The local leaders at the airport to receive them included Muslims for Human Rights chairman Khelef Khalifa and Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir.
Idris said the support of leaders and Muhuri helped them remain sane. “When we asked our embassy for help, they organised for a flight for us but the fares were way beyond what our parents could afford.”
Khalifa commended the government for ensuring that the students are back home.
Sixty-two other Kenyan students are still in Sudan and should be brought home as soon as possible, he said and called on North Eastern leaders to join in the facilitation of the students’ return.
Mombasa Health chief officer Khadija Shikely said the 84 students will be tested for Covid-19 at the quarantine cente from 7am Sunday.
Sudan does not have enough testing kits, so none of them was tested.
Shikely said after testing, those positive will be taken to isolation facilities in the county while those negative will continue with quarantine for 14 days.
The opting for self-quarantine at home will have to have their homes assessed by a multi-sectoral county team before they are given the green light to self-quarantine.
Studennts from Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu and Taita Taveta will be issued with special permits to travel home.
Of the 191 students stranded in Sudan, 47 were from North Eastern, according to Khalifa.
“Most of those remaining are from North Eastern region but none of their political leaders has done anything despite our plea to them,” he said.
The Muhuri leader said Kenya Airways is ready to facilitate their return in the next two days if their airfares are paid.
Each of the Saturday arrivals paid 400 US dollars (about Sh51,900).
Nassir, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, Lamu East MP Athman Shariff, Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa and Mombasa businessman Suleiman Shahbal all chipped in to help raise the students’ fares.
Parents of 76 of the students raised half the fare.
Joho paid full fare for 25 students and half fare for 68, Nassir full airfare for 19 students, while Shahbal paid half fare for 37. Shariff paid full fare for 20 students and Jumwa half fare for four.
Nassir commended the students for "great mental strength" while in Sudan.
The MP said priority should be given to bringing back the rest of the students home.
He asked leaders to take the burden off the government in some issues.
“Considering the economic situation we are in, leaving the responsibility of repatriating Kenyans to the government is a tall order. We need to chip in as leaders,” Nassir said.
- mwaniki fm