Drivers’ ordeal - untold story

EMOTIONS were high at the VIP Terminal of the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) in Dar es Salaam yesterday as relatives gathered to receive ten drivers who were rescued from armed bandits in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) last week.

Going by narrations of the drivers, one of the kidnappers sent by his colleagues from the deep forest where the hostages were being held to collect food supplies from a neighbouring village, helped to lead the Congolese Army to trace the hideout and eventually rescued the captives after an exchange of fire.

According to Hamis Mshana, it was after the ambush by the DRC Army and ensuing firefight with the bandits that the hostages managed to flee deeper into the jungle where they were later recovered by government soldiers.

At the JNIA, the drivers were received by the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Co-operation, Ms Susan Kolimba and the DRC Ambassador in Tanzania, Mr Jean-Piere Mutamba, as well as the Director of Simba Logistics, Mr Azim Dewji and several senior government officials.

It was a mixture of sobs and ecstasy as family members thronged the airport to have a glimpse of and embrace their relatives who were kidnapped last Tuesday by the bandits before they were rescued by the Congolese Army on the eve of Friday, last week.

The rescued drivers arrived at the country’s major airport few minutes to 04:00pm aboard Rwanda Air after which they were escorted to the VIP terminal to meet with government leaders.

Narrating the ordeal, the drivers recalled how they were held at gun-point by the thugs who were earlier linked to the Mai Mai rebels at Namoyo area in South Kivu Province. The suspected rebels had demanded a ransom of US 4,000 dollars (about 8.4m/-).

After receiving them, Ms Kolimba assured the drivers that the ordeal was an isolated incident, stressing that the government of Tanzania will continue protecting its citizens working in foreign countries. “It is unfortunate that you underwent such suffering.

But we are happy that you have arrived back safely; welcome back home,’’ she told them, noting: “DRC is a friendly country, which we have been conducting business with and this incident will not stop that.

The two governments have been working tirelessly for the rescue,” Ms Kolimba said. For his part, the DRC envoy said it was unfortunate that the incident happened, noting that the rescue operation was earlier impracticable due to conflicting reports.

“At first we were told you were in North Kivu but we afterwards learned that it was in South Kivu. We are now working with the government of Tanzania on tracing your movements in DRC,” he explained.

Mr Mutamba went on to advise drivers and Tanzanians travelling to the DRC to register at the Congolese Embassy in Dar es Salaam to make tracing of their movements possible. Mr Dewji said four of his trucks with a total value of 600m/- were torched by the bandits.

“The vehicles had already offloaded cargo (cement) when they were ambushed. We are, however, happy that 30 trucks have resumed transporting commodities to DRC under military escort of the Congolese army,” Mr Dewji noted.

Drivers’ ordeal - untold story Drivers’ ordeal - untold story Reviewed by on 10:19:00 PM Rating: 5

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