THE Government is working round the clock to secure the release of a Zambian national, Felix Ngoma, who was kidnapped by the Sudanese pro-government militia, Janjaweed, on July 6 this year, Foreign Affairs Minister Harry Kalaba has said.
Mr Ngoma works for the United Nations agency, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Sudan’s Darfur region.
The Janjaweed is demanding US$1 million as ransom for the release of Mr Ngoma, who was kidnapped after a conducted tour in Darfur where he was intercepted by gunmen on his way to his residence, located five kilometres from the IOM offices.
Mr Kalaba during a press briefing in Lusaka yesterday assured the nation that steady progress had been made to secure Mr Ngoma’s release and that he was in good health.
Mr Kalaba said negotiations to free Mr Ngoma had been restricted to the IOM and the Sudanese government.
“The gunmen contacted IOM offices to inform them that they had abducted Mr Ngoma and demanded a ransom to be paid. The gunmen are demanding $1 million before releasing him,” Mr Kalaba said.
“IOM has quietly been negotiating with the gunmen and have kept Government and Mr Ngoma’s family well-informed and have assured all concerned that the organisation was doing everything possible to secure his release.”
Mr Kalaba said the Government had authorised Zambia’s Ambassador to Geneva, Cynclair Sinjela to be the liaison person for Zambia and that information as of yesterday was that Mr Ngoma was in good health and his release was imminent.
“The Embassy in Geneva has already put in motion preparations to receive Mr Ngoma and repatriate him home to his people. The Zambian Government is constantly in contact with the IOM office in Lusaka to secure Mr Ngoma’s release,” Mr Kalaba said.
The minister said the security situation in Darfur had been worsening with criminal activities increasing and gangs resorting to extorting money from people.
He implored Zambians going to work in such places to exercise maximum caution.
“At all times Zambians should seek information of their work postings from Zambian embassies. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will endeavour to provide any information on further developments on this matter,” Mr Kalaba said.
The minister also announced that two diplomatic staff from the United Kingdom and Nigerian missions had been withdrawn due to alleged misconduct.
He said the decision to withdraw the two was arrived at after recieving reports as well as investigations that Government carried out.
Times of Zambia