South Sudan government under the leadership of President Salva Kiir has described as “unfortunate” the position taken by the neighbouring Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, and his government, in supporting proposed deployment of additional regional troops to join the current United Nations peacekeeping forces to help provide security for the capital, Juba, and restore peace in the country.
On the other hand, the opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) under the leadership of the First Vice President, Riek Machar, has welcomed the Kenyan President’s stance, saying it is for the good of the people of South Sudan and for regional peace and security.
President Kenyatta in his recent meeting with the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, said the region, including his own country, should urgently provide more troops to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to provide protection of leaderships and vulnerable citizens in South Sudan in the wake of violence last week in Juba in which hundreds of people were killed.
President Kenyatta said his country and those in the region have a collective responsibility to restore peace and security in South Sudan, saying the country has fallen down again.
“We have all watched events in South Sudan with sorrow. Our youngest brother has fallen, yet again, into division and violence. It is our responsibility – all of us, but especially those in the region – to restore peace, and to restore it durably,” said President Kenyatta according to the statement from his office.
“Let me be clear: those of us in the region have primary responsibility for peace and security here. But that responsibility is also collective – all of us must think carefully, and work hard, in the cause of peace,” he added.
The Kenyan leader also urged the UN Security Council to modify the mandate of UNMISS “so that it can separate those who have turned to violence, so that it can protect the infrastructure South Sudan has built, and so that it can enforce the peace. That is what collective responsibility means.”
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have all agree to send additional troops to Juba to restore peace.
The IGAD Executive Secretary, Mahboub Maalim, proposed a three-fold approach to addressing the South Sudan crisis.
“First, impose an immediate arms embargo on South Sudan. Second, enact additional targeted sanctions on leaders and commanders working to unravel the peace process. Third, fortify the UN Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS,” the IGAD Executive Secretary said.
The top regional official said that the chiefs of staff from five countries comprising Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda have proposed reinforcement of UNMISS troops from the region under the same UNMISS mandate.
But South Sudan’s minister of cabinet affairs, Martin Elia Lomuro, said that it was unfortunate that President Uhuru Kenyatta and his government decided to support deployment of additional foreign troops to South Sudan.
“That proposal will not work, because a problem is not solved by another problem and this thinking is unfortunate. Kenyan government should have done better than this,” said Martin Elia Lomuro.
Minister Lomuro, an ally to President Salva Kiir, echoed his president’s earlier comments that he would not allow even a ‘single soldier’ to deploy in South Sudan.
The opposition faction of the SPLM-IO says President Kiir has failed to control his forces or protect the people of South Sudan, coupled with his reluctance to fully implement the peace agreement which he signed in August last year.
The regional troops from Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda are expected to be deployed to Juba soon to take control of essential infrastructures including Juba International Airport.
The troops are expected to be given a stronger mandate including to use force against any party that will be initiating violence, threatening civilians or obstructing the implementation of the peace agreement.