Airline personnel still remaining on site at Juba’s International Airport are lamenting the low passenger numbers presently arriving on flights, but also acknowledge that inspite of Juba being by and large calm, the country overall may presently not be on the bucket list of travellers and that few of the South Sudanese who sought refuge abroad in the immediate aftermath of the start of the fighting are simply not coming back at this time.
Kenya Airways, which operated government evacuation flights yesterday, while President Kenyatta was in Juba for multilateral talks with the regime, has suspended commercial flights until at least 31st of December. Other airlines flying from Nairobi, Entebbe and Addis Ababa presently continue their flights, as does Fly Dubai which operates 4 flights a week at present. All of them, according to a source, are in constant contact with their station managers in Juba to get first hand information before a flight is then allowed to take off for Juba.
While flights out of Juba are now regularly full, inbound loadfactors have plummeted, making routes commercially hard to sustain in the long term while at the same time insurance companies are demanding higher premiums for flights to the South Sudan, which is now categorized as a war zone.
Most countries with diplomatic offices in South Sudan have either already evacuated their nationals or continue to do so, especially those countries like Kenya and Uganda with thousands of their citizens stuck. Kenya’s interior ministry in fact made history yesterday when establishing communication channels via Twitter and Facebook, besides providing conventional phone hotlines, to get as much information about Kenyans being unable so far to leave the country and return home. Information from Nairobi suggests that the Kenyan government will continue to offer assistance to leave the country once people have reached either the main airport in Juba or other airfields considered safe for evacuation flights.
While some sort of agreement was reached in talks between neighbouring countries and the two opposing sides in South Sudan, meetings – due to be hosted by the Ethiopian government in Addis Ababa, are not expected to go underway just yet as several delegation members for the talks nominated are reportedly being held by the regime in Juba which has refused to let them go free.
Meanwhile have prices for commodities, if available that is, risen in Juba as supplies normally coming in by road from Uganda are slow in making their way into South Sudan over fears of the potential loss of cargos, damage to vehicles and risk for the drivers and turnboys. A large number of trucks are waiting on the Ugandan side of the border to Nimule, either hoping for military escorts or else until sit it out until the situation has calmed down sufficiently and their security can be assured. Not a Merry Christmas for sure it was in Juba and across the South Sudan nor will it be a Happy New Year either on Tuesday next week at midnight for many of that country’s beleaguered citizens.