, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 3 – A Kenyan UN Commander sacked in South Sudan for failing to protect civilians in 2016 has told a parliamentary committee that he was sacrificed by the United Nations to ‘save face’.
Lieutenant-General Johnson Kimani Ondieki who is President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ambassadorial nominee to Turkey told MPs conducting his approval hearing that the UN is yet to formally communicate charges that led to his dismissal from the peacekeeping force.
“The UN – according to me, I don’t know if it is true – had to save face. Honourable Members, I can tell you, up to now I have never known what my accusation was. I have never known what I did or I did not do. But as it remains I thank God that I did the best that I could do to save the citizens of South Sudan and the members of the United Nations who were there. I believe I did right,” he told the House Committee.
Ondieki’s sacking led to a diplomatic standoff between Kenya and the UN after President Kenyatta ordered KDF troops out of the UN mission in South Sudan.
The decorated soldier told MPs in the Defence and Foreign Relations Committee that due process was not followed in his appointment to head UNMISS because he never went to New York for induction but was unprocedurally dispatched directly to Juba where it took three weeks to familiarize himself with operation in South Sudan.
“I spent the first two weeks going round the field and learning how the force worked. In the third week, he returned to the camp when the Juba crisis happened. We were few in number; we could not reach everyone in Juba.”
“Four months after an investigation team came to Juba, I got a letter inviting me to go New York for induction. When I got to New York I was told there was a report blaming me for not protecting civilians,” he added.
He, however, says he defended his actions during his three-month stay as the head of UNMISS but pointed to a lack of proper leadership structure for the “chaotic and ineffective response for the failure of troops to respond to pleas for help from aid workers under attack in a nearby hotel.”
“The system I found prohibited me from making individual decisions, unlike the case when I led Kenya into Somalia where I took full responsibility and gave the orders and we moved. In South Sudan we had to have something called a crisis meeting that included the Head of the Mission, Force Commanders, the police and everybody, you agree on the action,” Ondieki said as he narrated that action implementation was sluggish because of force from 26 countries which also had vested interests.
The career army man who had served in various regional operation including the Sierra Leone peacekeeping mission and Operation Linda Nchi said he is now looking forward to his diplomatic posting.