IN THE WAR ZONE
Nine South Africans still stranded with no passports in Sudan as evacuation efforts continue
The South African government and the charity Gift of the Givers are continuing to facilitate the escape of several South Africans and others stranded by the fighting between two military generals in Sudan.
Two buses carrying 38 South Africans and seven other nationals from war-torn Sudan reached the Egyptian border on Tuesday morning. Most crossed into Egypt but nine South Africans without passports were stuck at the border. The bus company which had transported them postponed the planned departure of a third bus from Khartoum on Tuesday to carry some South Africans who had been left behind, as well as several other nationals.
Imtiaz Sooliman, the head of the Gift of the Givers, told Daily Maverick on Tuesday night: “The third bus was held back. The security situation was untenable, with skirmishes around Khartoum and extensive aerial bombing on the route to Egypt. The bus company has excellent in-the-field intelligence and recommended we postpone the trip to tomorrow.”
Sooliman said that of the four South Africans who had been left behind in Khartoum on Monday because of a communication mix-up about the departure point and time, three were now making their own way to Port Sudan on the Red Sea with the help of their company.
Another South African, not originally part of the group scheduled to leave on the bus on Tuesday, was also believed to be en route to Port Sudan.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Trapped South Africans reach Egyptian border after precarious rescue mission from Sudan conflict zone
Another seven South Africans previously unaccounted for had also turned up in Port Sudan, along with four Tanzanians, one Mozambican and one Kenyan. “We have to figure out how to get them out. We have a challenge. Dirco [the Department of International Relations and Cooperation] did speak to the Saudis,” Sooliman said.
He added that a boat company had asked for the passports of the seven South Africans already in Port Sudan, which suggested they would soon be embarking.
“We think a boat may come in the early hours of the morning. We have to see what to do about the other four still en route. If the boat fails, Dirco has asked our embassy in Jordan to ask the Jordanians to extract them with their regular flights. I’m engaging our ambassador shortly.”
38 South Africans who had been trapped by warfare in Sudan for 10 days reached the Egyptian border in two buses on Tuesday.
The buses drove through the night from Khartoum, in an evacuation mission arranged by the South African government.
Four South Africans missed the buses because of communication problems and danger in Khartoum, but another bus had been arranged to take them out on Tuesday.
Three South Africans made it out by hitching a ride on a French military helicopter from Khartoum to neighbouring Djibouti, the French embassy in Pretoria confirmed to Daily Maverick. Others had found their own way out of the country, to South Sudan or Port Sudan on the Red Sea.
Ilse Young, a South African who has been living in Khartoum since 2008 with her husband Adam, and the couple’s twins, were among those evacuated and said: “My heart is broken for the ones who could not make it.”
The fourth South African whom Sooliman had earlier expected to get on the third bus was a woman who was too terrified to travel as she had had “traumatic experiences” in an earlier escape from Khartoum to the south.
Sooliman said three US citizens would also be on the bus on Wednesday after he had worked with the US consul-general in Khartoum to get them travel documents which they did not originally have. And he said the Brazilian government and the Brazilian ambassador in South Africa had called him to arrange for six Brazilians to travel on the bus on Wednesday.
“We plan to pick up another three Brazilians en route. They have no travel documents. The plan is to meet them at a certain point en route. The Brazilian embassy will print new passports for them in Cairo and bring them to the Sudan-Egypt border.”
In the meantime, another South African had shown up and he would also be on the bus on Wednesday.
Earlier Sooliman had said two Sottish terriers left behind by a South African family who had travelled on the first two buses on Monday, would also be passengers on the bus on Wednesday. The dogs apparently belong to Ilse and Adam Young and their twins Isabella and Duncan.
Sooliman said they also found another South African who had decided not to leave Sudan.
He noted that the first two buses which left Khartoum on Monday reached the Sudan border at about 9am on Tuesday. They had waited till about 2pm, and then 36 of them had crossed the border into Egypt.
“Nine SA citizens are held back because of no passports. Representatives of the SA embassy were supposed to be on-site at the border but never pitched. The nine are still stranded since 14h30.” DM