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200 Ugandans coming home through Ethiopia

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It was a sigh of relief, yesterday evening, April 23, 2023, as 4 buses go carrying 208 Ugandan evacuees set off from the Embassy of Uganda located at Garden City, in Khartoum, on a 761km journey to Ethiopia. From their temporary destination, at Gandor Airport in Western Ethiopia, the evacuees are expected to board flights back to Uganda through Entebbe Airport.

“First, I thank the Almighty God for delivering the Ugandan evacuees through the risky area. I also thank H.E. President Yoweri Museveni, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Secretary, and the gallant Embassy Staff, particularly, Brig.

Gen. Karara, Mr. David Wamono, and the Director General, External Security Organisation (ESO), Ambassador Joseph Ecwet, in a special way,” Ambassador Dr. Rashid Yahya Ssemuddu, Uganda’s Ambassador to Khartoum, Republic of
Sudan, said today morning.

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“Special commendations go out to Gen. Katumba Wamala, my colleagues, the Ambassadors from Uganda and elsewhere, and staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who have rendered support in various ways. The evacuees are now heading home, first across the border of Ethiopia. We shall keep the country updated about the progress of the movement of the Evacuees”, said Ambassador Ssemuddu.

According to a statement released by the Office of the Ambassador, of the 208 persons aboard the buses, 110 are men, including male children and 98 are women, including female children. The evacuees are made up of Diplomats, Students, and members of the working community, with the expectation that they would be evacuated by air from the closest airport of Gondar, in Ethiopia.

Also onboard the buses are non-Ugandan citizens who obtained Ugandan visas: 2 Sudanese, 3 Tanzanians, and 1 Zimbabwean married to a Ugandan. The total road distance from Khartoum to Gondar is 761km, and on a normal journey, would take approximately 12hrs 45 minutes. However, the journey is likely to take longer.

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The evacuees are expected to fly back to Uganda from Gandor airport, located some 935km North West of Addis Ababa, through a special arrangement following a directive by H.E. President Yoweri Museveni.

It is indicated in the statement, that a number of expected evacuees did not join the group. These included: patients admitted at Salaam Hospital, Khartoum; individuals stuck in various states, but who had earlier indicated their readiness to travel; and some who preferred to stay back. Others are individuals who left Sudan through a UN convoy via Port Sudan and through South Sudan.

Ambassador Ssemuddu has said that a comprehensive assessment of persons who are still in Sudan would be made and communication about their status relayed to the country.

An estimated 300 Ugandans are understood to have been in Sudan at the outbreak of hostilities, on April 15, 2023, following the outbreak of clashes between the Sudan Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), commanded
by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti.

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In a gesture of utmost care for all Ugandan citizens, Ambassador Ssemuddu says the Embassy turned down an offer from the UN to evacuate diplomats, preferring to wait for an arrangement that covered all Ugandan nationals who would be
willingness to leave the country.

“We have seen big countries which only evacuated their diplomats. But with support from H.E. the President, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Embassy staff, we made it happen,” said Ambassador Ssemuddu.

Uganda joins over two dozen countries that have successfully evacuated their nationals from Ethiopia, since a 72hr truce was announced last week that got underway effective Friday, April 21, 2023. While the ceasefire has not been fully observed by the belligerent forces, as skirmishes were reported in major flash points of Khartoum and other areas, this hasn’t stopped countries from evacuating their citizens.

The United States led the way, evacuating about 100 of its citizens, drawing on its mighty military assets in the region, mainly the regional base in Djibouti, with support from the governments of Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia. It was the most daring rescue mission and involved directly extracting US citizens from the Embassy compound in Khartoum using three CH47 a.k.a. Chinook helicopters, and 100 commandos.

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The helicopters are mainly used by US Special Forces, including the famous Navy Seals.

Other countries that have successfully evacuated their citizens include France, Italy, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The Italy/ Spanish evacuation mission helped evacuate citizens of Argentina, Colombia, Ireland, Portugal, Poland, Mexico, Venezuela, and Sudan. Other African countries are in the process of evacuating their citizens, mainly through the Airport at Port Sudan.

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