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By JOE KIARIE
When Mr George Githinji received a call summoning
him to the CID headquarters in Juba, South Sudan
last month, he thought it was a cruel joke.
His fears were nonetheless confirmed when he was
arrested and locked up in one of the country’s most
dreaded detention facilities, supposedly at the
behest of the Kenyan embassy in Juba.
After 30 days of torment while under illegal
detention in a foreign land, the father of three was
finally released and ‘deported’ with no charges
preferred against him after his plight was
highlighted by The Standard on Saturday last
weekend.
Now back home, albeit ailing, Githinji, 52, has one
resolute vow; “I will never set foot in South Sudan
again. God has saved my life and I will not court
death again.”
The businessman paints a picture of terrifying
impunity in Africa’s newest nation, but most
significantly, accuses the Kenyan government of
betraying and failing to protect its citizens. He says
his torment started on Thursday October 3, when he
visited the Kenyan embassy in Juba seeking
assistance to recover cash owed to him.
“I found Ambassador (Cleland) Leshore arguing with
someone at the reception and he immediately
turned to me, asking if I had returned to Sudan to
disturb him,” he recounts.
He claims the ambassador was furious that while
serving as the organising secretary of the
Association of Kenyans in South Sudan, Githinji had
alongside other officials highlighted the embassy’s
perceived laxity in the media.
Disappearing
“He ordered me to walk out and report to State
House that he had refused to offer me any
assistance,” he claims. Githinji says he was shocked
to receive a call at 9am the following day ordering
him to report to the CID headquarters. “It is the last
thing I expected,” he asserts. “I alerted my Kenyan
neighbours and also called the Kenyans Association
chairman Gideon Mungai”.
With cases of people disappearing without trace in
the hands of security officers prevalent in the oil-
rich nation, a Kenyan cleric popularly referred to as
Bishop asked to meet Githinji so they could discuss
the issue. “I rushed to Genus Hotel, a Kenyan-owned
restaurant, and found him there,” he recounts.
But they only exchanged greetings before they were
treated to a rude shock. “Just as I was ordering for
tea, two men already seated in the hotel walked to
us, identified themselves as CID officers and asked
us to accompany them to the headquarters,” he
explains.
“They said we were to record statements regarding
anonymous calls that I had received; yet I had not
complained to any South Sudan government officer
about such calls.”
He says they were led to a white Mitsubishi double
cabin van but instead of heading towards Juba town;
it zoomed off to Jebel Kujur, a dreaded military
facility popularly known as Blue House. The facility
is located at the Jebel Kujur hills on the outskirts of
Juba town.
“It was a hair-raising moment and I told Bishop that
if we enter Blue House, we might disappear without
a trace as no one had seen us being arrested and no
one would know where we were. I told him to pray
hard,” recounts Githinji.
One of the officers, he states, immediately ordered
them to switch off their mobile phones and hand
them over to him. “He told us that from then
henceforth, we were in the hands of the CID.”
At Jebel Kujur, he says, they were separated and
booked in at the reception. “There were two blocks
on each side of the reception, both labeled ‘toilets’
at the entrance. I was led into one of the blocks, only
to realise there were five cells inside. I was put in
cell Number One,” he says. He describes the cells as
dingy, dimly lit, with no ventilation and teeming
with giant mosquitoes. A cold tiled floor was to be
his new bed.
All the cells, he says, were full with people of diverse
nationalities. Still in shock and not knowing why he
had been arrested while Bishop was released the
next Monday, the businessman says one officer
identified only as Jacob volunteered to help him
walk to freedom.
“He summoned me saying he wanted to save my
life. He told me to give him 6,000 Sudanese pounds
(about Sh210,000) which he claimed was for my
transport to Nimule border crossing,” he narrates.
Normally, it only costs about 500 Sudanese pounds
to travel to the border point. “I told him I did not
have the money and he handed me a cell phone that
I was to use to call three people who would bring me
the money. He gave me up to midday the next day
to get the cash but stormed out fuming when I told
him I could not get that money in a day,” Githinji
continues.
He was returned to the cell and this marked the
start of a traumatising period that saw him stay for
two weeks with no communication whatsoever from
the duty officers.
After two weeks, he says he gathered courage and
asked the duty officer taking the roll call why he was
being held.
“He could not read properly so he showed me the
file. My offence had been recorded as sabotage,” he
asserts. “I inquired further and he told me it was the
Kenyan embassy and not the government of South
Sudan that had me arrested. He said he could thus
not help in any way”.
Githinji who is supposed to be on daily medication
for hypertension, says his pleas to be allowed access
to drugs proved futile.
At 12.45pm last Saturday, the day The Standard on
Saturday highlighted his story, Githinji says an
officer called him and inquired whether he would be
able to pay for deportation back home the same
day. Fearing that criminal charges probably awaited
him in Kenya, Githinji questioned why he was being
deported.
Illegally chased
“He told me I was not wanted in South Sudan as we
were holding illegal political meetings. I implored
further and he told me it is only my embassy that
could answer questions regarding the meetings,” he
says. Githinji says he was already time-barred to fly
home that day, but was advised to book a ticket for
a Sunday flight to Nairobi. “I called a friend who
booked a ticket for me,” he states.
The businessman’s fears that he was just being
illegally chased out of South Sudan and not
deported were confirmed when he reached Jomo
Kenyatta International Airport.
“I thought I would find security officers waiting for
me, but I only found my wife, daughter and brother.
To date there is still no formal explanation as to why
I have been chased away despite the fact that I had
just signed a lucrative construction contract,” he
says.
On Tuesday he recorded a statement at the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs, where he was assured that
investigations were already underway and those
found culpable would be punished. Reached for a
comment, the South Sudan embassy in Nairobi said
the issue was beyond her jurisdiction.

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