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Africans describe journey after leaving Libya

posted 28 Feb 2011, 08:08 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 28 Feb 2011, 08:10 ]

African nationals fleeing Libya say they faced hostility and attacks from those who believed they were mercenaries.

NAIROBI, KENYA (FEBRUARY 28, 2011) REUTERS - African citizens evacuated from turbulent Libya expressed happiness and joy as they arrived in the Kenyan capital Nairobi early on Monday (February 28).

"I'm extremely happy that I have finally got home, I thank God for this. It could have been worse. We went

through a lot of problems especially when the protests started. We started our journey on Thursday and it has not been easy," said Robert Mwadime. He was one of 90 Kenyans who arrived safely at about 0830 local time (0530GMT) onboard a Kenya Airways flight that also carried 64 citizens from other African nations .

The flight included citizens from Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Southern Sudan, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and South Africa, following requests from their governments to assist in evacuating their citizens from Libya.

The Kenya Airways flight was expected to arrive in Nairobi last Friday (February 25) but faced numerous delays. According to Kenyan authorities, the delays were due to Egyptian authorities refusing to give clearance, citing safety concerns.

"There were roadblocks after every kilometre we covered, others were just like thugs and they kept on stealing from us; they stole our phones, laptops and since we are black we looked quite suspicious to them," said Benson Njeru, another Kenyan national who was evacuated.

Throngs of people filled Kenya's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to welcome back their loved ones.

Most of the evacuated Kenyans working in Libya were engineers, plant mechanics, and other technical employees working with the Strabag Construction Company. Others worked in the hotel industry.

Thousands of foreign nationals have been evacuated from Libya as unrest in the nation intensifies with protests to oust leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The Libyan leader vowed to stay in Libya on Sunday (February 27) and blamed foreigners and al Qaeda for the unrest that is threatening his 41-year rule. Gaddafi, once branded a "mad dog" by Washington for his support of militant groups worldwide, had been embraced by the West in recent years in return for renouncing some weapons programmes and, critically, for opening up Libya's oilfields.

A growing number of Western leaders are now urging Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to step down after his brutal response to the popular uprising against his rule. The death toll from nearly two weeks of violence in Libya has been estimated by some to be at around 2,000.