, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 16 – Diplomats at the Foreign Affairs ministry are advising the Kenyan government to remain neutral in the South Sudan peace talks, and push for the release of political detainees.
A confidential document from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs seen by Capital FM News makes it clear that Kenya must adopt a non-partisan stand in the conflict for it to be seen to be a credible mediator.
“Kenya needs to remain neutral to remain a credible mediator in the face of challenges currently facing the peace process in South Sudan,” diplomats who have authored the advisory say, adding that “It may be in the interest of Kenya to pursue the release of detainees.”
The document dated January 15 notes that the progress of the peace talks is influenced by the issue of detainees and continued military posturing by parties on the ground. “The government (of South Sudan) intends to capture Bor while the opposition are strategizing to capture Malakal.”
The Sudan peace talks were launched on December 27 when Kenya hosted the 23rd Extra-Ordinary Summit of IGAD member states during which President Uhuru Kenyatta nominated renowned envoy Lazarus Sumbeiywo to jointly work with Ethiopia’s Seyoum Mesfin.
Diplomats at the Foreign Ministry are increasingly worried that since the South Sudan crisis is getting ‘internationalised’, there is need for Kenya to be neutral, for it to be seen to be a credible mediator.
It is also exposing what appears to be lack of co-ordination between its Special Envoy Sumbeiywo and Ethiopia’s Mesfin, which is partly blamed for the dragging peace process.
“The lack of co-ordination between the Special Envoys as evidenced in Amb Seyoum’s travel to Juba is also not helping the process,” the confidential document states, adding “Whether Seyoum will succeed in securing the release of the detainees when the President has remained adamant that they have to go through the legal process remains to be seen.”
Trouble in the world’s newest nation started last month when President Salvar Kiir accused his former vice president Riek Machar of attempting a coup on his government, leading to war between military factions which are accused of killing thousands of people and displacing many more.
In the analysis of the Kenyan diplomats, there are also fears that Sudan which is angered by the deployment of Ugandan forces by President Yoweri Museveni may resort to supporting Machar’s group directly or indirectly, thus aggravating the situation.
“Sudan is concerned that President Museveni’s intervention in South Sudan coupled with being Sudan’s arch-foe will aggravate the situation and bolster his long-held ambition of realizing a regime change in Sudan,” the document states.