, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 11– The Government has allayed fears that the relationship between Kenya and South Sudan has been strained following President Uhuru Kenyatta’s decision to withdraw from the peace process and pull its troops out of the war-torn nation.
In a statement, Government spokesperson Eric Kiraithe said the relationship between the two countries remains strong.
He said the President has been in constant communication with his South Sudan counterpart Salva Kiir, who had assured him of his commitment to the safety of Kenyans living in South Sudan.
“Indeed, President Kenyatta and President Salva Kiir have been in close contact over the last few weeks, exchanging mutual assurances. President Kenyatta remains committed to supporting South Sudan through regional mechanisms including IGAD, the Africa Union and the EAC. President Salva Kiir has assured Kenya of his commitment to the safety of Kenyans living in South Sudan,” he said.
He however says the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is monitoring the situation to ascertain that all Kenyans living in South Sudan are safe.
“The Government has established that Kenyans residing in South Sudan are currently secure and face no immediate threat of danger,” he pointed out.
He defended the President’s move to withdraw Kenya’s troops from the UN peace mission saying, “This is a matter of honor for our country, and its armed forces who we feel have not been accorded the respect that is their due. We have forwarded our complaints concerning UNMISS to the UN Secretary General through the appropriate mechanisms. That said, the withdrawal of our troops has absolutely no bearing on the relationship between South Sudan and Kenya.”
Opposition leader Raila Odinga has criticised the move saying the President should have consulted widely.
“People are dying in South Sudan… the soldiers should have remained there,” he said.
Catholics Bishops have also called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to reconsider his decision to disengage Kenya from peace mediation efforts.
“The situation of endless strife in South Sudan is worrying,” he asserted. “There are many refugees entering Kakuma camp from South Sudan. We call on the Kenyan Government to work with other nations for a lasting solution to the problems facing the South Sudan.
He insisted that Kenya, “has to take its traditional role in brokering peace in South Sudan.”
Trouble started earlier in the month, when 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 had been in UNMISS command was according to President Kenyatta’s administration, unceremoniously relieved of his duties.