‘I thought it was the end of me,’ MP Salasya recounts near-death experience in South Sudan
“Juba is hot,” Mumias East MP Peter Salasya begins when I call to ask him about his experience at a swimming pool during the just-concluded East African inter-parliamentary games in Juba, South Sudan.
It is just hours after the first-time MP put up a social media post to thank God for saving him from the near-death experience, in which he also rules out the possibility of him returning to the pool ever again.
This happened during the 12th Inter-Parliamentary Games (IPG), coordinated by the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) and which took place between November 25 and December 1.
They brought together Regional Assemblies and National Parliaments from the East African Community (EAC).
And so on Tuesday, November 29, after the day’s activities, Salasya, who was participating in the athletics competitions, decided to take a dip in the pool.
This in spite of the fact that the most he had experimented with water sports before was “just playing with water like a cat does.”
“The manager told me not to proceed beyond the shallow end but my curiosity could not let me stay put,” he tells me.
Off went the MP, grateful that he had all the water to himself since the other swimmers had already left the pool.
Amid the fun, Salasya says he slid and found himself in the deep end, struggling to get back to the other side of the pool.
“I could not see above the water, I could not breathe or shout or do anything. It was like; ‘Oh my God!’ today is the end of me,’ I discovered that you cannot just walk in the pool to the wall of the pool which is what I thought as I went in,” he says.
It took the help of onlookers at a nearby massage parlour within the facility, two women who he says could not swim either, but who called a Sudanese man to carry him out of the water.
According to Salasya, the fracas lasted nearly four minutes, after which the rescuers administered first aid.
“Had it gone to something like seven minutes, it would have been tough for me,” Salasya says.
According to the latest data by the World Health Organization (WHO) published in 2020, drowning deaths in Kenya reached 1,200 or 0.46 per cent of total deaths, placing Kenya number 103 in drawings in the world.
Globally, drowning claims more than 236 000 lives each year.
WHO linked the fatalities to daily, routine activities, such as bathing, collecting water for domestic use, travelling over water on boats or ferries, and fishing.
The global body recommended installing barriers, controlling access to water; training bystanders in safe rescue and resuscitation; teaching school-aged children basic swimming and water safety skills; providing supervised daycare for children; setting and enforcing safe boating, shipping and ferry regulations; and improving flood risk management as precautionary measures.
Now, from his own experience, the Mumias East MP, says he will table a bill in Parliament seeking to introduce mandatory swimming classes for primary school pupils.
“It seems like the best way forward. For things like swimming, the earlier you acquire the skill the better. For one’s safety and that of others as well. Those ladies were unable to jump into the water and save me until the Sudanese guy came in,” he says.
With water safety knowledge, the MP argues that last year’s Enziu River tragedy in Mwingi, Kitui County, which claimed 33 lives, for instance, would not have been as fatal.
“In CBC, we can incorporate this skill in the curriculum because it will save the lives of many people. The unfortunate incident that took many Kenyan’s lives in Ukambani when their bus drowned, with swimming skills, who know how many people we could have saved?”
“I am going to push it in parliament, meet with the clerk of the Education committee t help me draft something on it and make it a motion so that it is mandatory for every school. I know it is expensive but we have to know that anything good must come at a cost,” he adds.
I ask about the photos he accompanied his social media message with, of him on his knees as four men lay hands on him in prayer.
It turns out they are from a prayer service he held for all the Form Four candidates in Mumias East last month.
“I just recalled that day (as he was composing the Facebook post). They prayed for me too and I thought; maybe these were the prayers that saved me last week,” he says.
Salasya maintains that he does not intend to go back to the water, whether to be trained or otherwise; “I am afraid, swimming pools and I are now like water and oil.”
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