Kenya: Kenyatta criticised for pulling out peacekeepers from South Sudan

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) - Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga said on Friday that the decision by President Uhuru Kenyatta to withdraw troops from the UN peacekeeping force in South Sudan was unilateral and would threaten regional security.

"The withdrawal of Kenyan troops from South Sudan points to a deeper problem in our country," Odinga told reporters in Nairobi.

The first batch of Kenyan troops from South Sudan arrived home on Wednesday, less than 48 hours after the President called off their participation in the UN peacekeeping operation.

"It would look like Kenya is acting tough but these developments are troubling," Odinga said, criticising the withdrawal of the Kenyan troops from South Sudan.

An internal investigation into the failures of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) blamed the Force Commander, Kenyan Lieutenant General Johnson Kimani Ondieki, leading to his sacking.

Odinga said although there were widespread concerns with the way the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon acted in response to the internal probe into the failures of the force, the action taken by President Kenyatta was even more regrettable.

The Kenyan opposition leader said the withdrawal of the Kenyan troops went against Kenya's foreign policy and against the constitution.

"These actions are ill-advised. It is not clear whether the President was acting in personal anger. The last thing the world needs is to engage with a country which can act to jeopardise global peace," Odinga said.

President Kenyatta said Kenya's commitment to global peace should not come at the expense of "dignity, honour and pride".

"I must state clearly that Kenya serves in these missions (UN peacekeeping) not because we have to but because from the time of our independence, we have been clear in our understanding and our desire for global peace in the full recognition that as part of the international community, regional and global peace also mean peace for Kenya," Kenyatta said.

Kenyatta said Kenya would stop contributing to peacekeeping missions which had failed to meet their mandate of protecting civilians and had instead resorted to blaming a Kenyan commander.

The Kenyan Commander was barely a month old in the job when the fierce fighting broke out in South Sudan capital, Juba, between forces loyal to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and his rival Riek Machar.

President Kenyatta said Kenya would not contribute troops to the proposed regional protection force which had been in the planning stage.

Yusuf Mohamed, an international strategic studies expert, told PANA the decision by Kenya not to contribute to the proposed regional force was a strategic move to favour the government of Kiir, which had been opposed to the deployment.

"Kenya has appeared vulnerable to its regional competitors after losing a lucrative pipeline deal which now appears to favour Uganda through Tanzania from South Sudan. They seem to be trying to claw back the gains," Mohamed said.

The Kenyan government insists the UN has not shared with it the report from its internal evaluation and investigation into the failures that resulted to the sacking of Lt. Gen Ondieki.

Odinga said while Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto attended the UN General Assembly Summit, where they were supposed to have discussed the UN peacekeeping, their failure to do so was a result of failing diplomacy.

"These revelations are indications of something wrong. These are indications of diplomatic failure. We are not a failed state and not an oligarchy," Odinga said.

Kenyan government expects the remaining 900 troops from South Sudan to arrive in Nairobi this week.

At least 100 soldiers arrived in Nairobi this week as part of the advance withdrawal mission.
-0- PANA AO/MA 11Nov2016

11 november 2016 14:25:49

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