Few words could describe the joy on the face of Hilda Kawuki, a Ugandan aid worker, when she was this morning reunited with her family after 100 days in captivity in Darfur.
Kawuki, an employee of the Irish humanitarian organization, GOAL, returned to Uganda today. A huge crowd of her family, friends and journalists gathered at Entebbe International Airport to witness the return of a woman whose kidnap by Sudanese rebels made international headlines.
As she walked off the Kenya Airways Boeing 737 at 15 minutes to eight this morning, Hilda Kawuki's face lit up with one big smile. She rushed to meet her mother, Ann and her four-year-old son Aumin, arms outstretched, laughing, hugging and kissing them.
After more than three months in rebel captivity in a foreign land, Kawuki was clearly overjoyed to be home. She soon noticed how much her son Aumin had grown. Two of his milk teeth had fallen out and he shyly told her a rat had taken them in the middle of the night.
In the crows were several dignitaries, noticeably the Irish Ambassador to Uganda, Kevin Kelly. His government was involved in continuous negotiations with the Sudanese government and rebel leaders in Darfur to secure the release of Hilda Kawuki and her Irish colleague, Sharon Commins.
Kawuki and Commins were kidnapped in the north Darfur town of Kutum on July 3rd by a gang of 18 armed men. They lived in constant fear of being shot, often being the subject of mock assassinations and ransom demands.
Kawuki says explaining the ordeal she went through during her captivity is hard and she is still coming to terms with the kidnap.
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Kawuki said she had little to do but pray each day for her release.
Hilda Kawuki did not say whether or not she intends to return to work in Darfur, but she said her contract with GOAL is still valid.
Betty Akech, Uganda's Ambassador to Sudan, said several weeks of intense diplomatic efforts by Uganda, Ireland and Sudan all led to the release of the two women. She said no ransom was paid for their release.
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A huge party has been organized by Kawuki's family and friends to welcome her back home.