NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 9- The first batch of 100 Kenya Defense Forces soldiers attached to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) arrived back to the country on Wednesday following after the government announced a withdrawal from the war-torn country.
Earlier in the month, Kenya took the decision to not only pull its troops out of South Sudan but disengage itself from the peace process after the Kenyan who’d been in UNMISS command was unceremoniously relieved of his duties.
“Today we have started our withdrawal from South Sudan following President Kenyatta’s directive last week,” Officer Commanding the Eastern Command Major General Benjamin Biwott told journalists at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) when he received the soldiers.
He said the over 1,000 soldiers will be withdrawn systematically, while confirming that the UN was taking care of their expenses.
He said the KDF soldiers have been involved in over 40 peace missions, where they executed their mission without contravening the international standards.
“In all the places we have gone, we have performed very well,” he said.
Kenya had been asked to nominate a replacement but it declined to do so after finding that Lieutenant General Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki was unfairly sacked.
The Kenyan government also took issue with the manner in which the decision was communicated with President Uhuru Kenyatta himself saying that Kenya’s dignity would not be sacrificed on the altar of service.
“The process leading to this unfortunate decision not only lacked transparency but did not involve any formal consultation with the Government of Kenya. This demonstrate complete disregard of our key role and responsibility in South Sudan,” Kenya protested in a statement from the Foreign Affairs ministry, “The manner in which the information was conveyed to the Government of Kenya revealed a high degree of disrespect for our country, and lack of confidence in our troops and their contribution to regional peace processes.”
While the UN said it respected Kenya’s decision the US and the South Sudan government implored President Kenyatta’s administration to reconsider.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon took the decision to sack Ondieki on November 1, five months after elevating him to the position, on receiving a special report on atrocities committed in the five-year-old nation in July.
“The Secretary-General has received Major General (retired) Patrick Cammaert’s report on the Independent Special Investigation into the violence in Juba in July 2016 and the actions of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), including its response to acts of sexual violence in and around the Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites at UN House and the attack on the Terrain camp.
Kenya maintains the commander was unfairly targeted.
According to the UN boss, the Special Investigation found that UNMISS did not respond effectively to the violence due to an overall lack of leadership, preparedness and integration among the various components of the mission.”
Kenya however, felt that it was not fair for it all to fall on Lt General Ondieki’s head given he had been in command for only a month before the aforementioned took place and was for all intents and purposes still finding his bearings given his predecessor completed his assignment in June.
Kenya had approximately 1,500 of its soldiers stationed in South Sudan.