October 17, 2016 (JUBA) - South Sudanese government under the leadership of President Salva Kiir has selectively welcomed a push by Kenyan members of parliament to sanction South Sudanese leaders, and in particular to stop hosting the leader of the armed opposition faction and former First Vice President, Riek Machar.
But the proposal by the Kenyan MPs did not only target Machar, but also targeted President Salva Kiir and their families members residing in Kenya.
However, cabinet affairs minister, Martin Elia Lomuro, told reporters on Monday that the move by the Kenyan members of parliament was in line with the regional commitment to help the transitional government of national unity to implement the agreement on the resolution of the conflict in the Republic of South Sudan.
“You know Kenya had played a very positive role in the resolution of the conflict and this role is continuing. The Kenyan president was the first to visit Juba after the July events. As part of the region, the Kenyan government and Kenyan people are playing a key role in the implementation of the peace agreement,” said minister Lomuro.
Kenya, he said, should not allow itself to be used by any hostile group to destabilize the country.
“It is important for Kenya to continue playing its leading role. Riek Machar and those who do not want peace, those who do not want the country to be peaceful, should not be allowed to use any country as their place for making destructive plans. They must be stopped,” said Lomoro, whose home area, Lainya county in Equatoria region, is a battle field between rival forces with displaced populations.
The official was reacting to media reports quoting heads of the two Kenyan parliamentary committees condemning a new call for a return to war against Salva Kiir’s government by Machar’s faction.
He was reacting to remarks attributed to the chairman of Kenya’s security committee in Parliament, Asman Kamama and his counterpart in the defence and foreign relations committee, Ndugu’u Githinji, both of whom said in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, that they were working to table a motion which would be considered next week to decide whether to slap sanctions against both President Kiir and his former deputy, Machar, and their relatives.
The Kenyan legislators said the two leaders’ families were enjoying life in Kenya and owning assets which they said should be frozen by the Kenyan authorities. The also condemned Machar’s comments calling for war as ”unacceptable and inexcusable” and demonstrated lack of concern and value for the people of South Sudan.
After talks with members of his faction in Khartoum late in September, Machar called his forces to reorganise for a “popular armed resistance” against the South Sudan’s government.
“We find the fresh calls for war unacceptable and inexcusable. We want Machar and his allies to go back to the negotiating table as an option to pursue and address his grievances,” Kamama told a press conference at Parliament buildings.
“Taking the people of South Sudan back to the trenches must not be an option. Saying the instability in South Sudan threatens Kenya’s economic interests amid an influx of refugees into the country,” said Kamama, further stressing that the bloodletting in the nation must come to an end and Machar barred from accessing any East Africa country.
Kenya, according to Kamama, has lost businesses with some branches of banks including KCB, Co-operative and Equity getting burned down in the capital Juba.
“The war threatens the continent’s largest Lappset project. Machar and his allies cannot live in comfort in Nairobi and have his children go to better schools while people continue to die in South Sudan,” said Kamama.
Githinji, on the other hand, said Machar cannot be allowed to use any capital in the region as a launch pad for his atrocities back home, against innocent citizens, after failing to perform his duties as Vice President. “Machar and his allies cannot be allowed to enjoy the comfort and relative calm of capitals with their children going to school.
In response to the allegations, Machar on Monday reacted from South Africa where he went to for a short visit for “medical checkup” and described the two Kenyan MPs as people supporting a regime in Juba which is killing its own citizens and attempted to assassinate him.
In the response through Kenya media interview which his spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, shared its link on his Facebook account, Machar said the two Kenyan MPs were “ignorant” about what transpired in Juba and should be educated about the situation and how it came about.
He also said he has no assets in Kenya such as houses and bank accounts, saying his family is only renting a house, which he struggles to pay through his “Kenyan friend.”
"Have they known what happened in Juba? Have they heard my side of the story? This is the second time for me to be targeted in Juba by President Salva to be killed. Are they not aware of this? They must be blind to what is happening in Juba. I am ready for a debate. If Kenyan MPs want to have a role to play in resolving the conflict in South Sudan, they should give the two sides the chance for them to debate among them," he said.
"I want peace, and let the Kenya people know that. I will come visit President Uhuru Kenyatta. Kenya is my home. I will come and explain my side," he added.
Machar also said he was behind the original idea to allow Kenya banks and insurance companies and other businesses to establish themselves in South Sudan when he was Vice President, even before the country became independent in July 2011, adding that he was thinking about Kenya as his home too and its people as his people.
He also said he was the one who pushed the government in Juba to initiate oil pipeline through Kenya, but said the MPs seemed not to be aware that he was the one promoting the relationship between the two countries. Currently, Kenyan banks are being closed in South Sudan due to unfavourable operations.
The opposition leader said he would come to Kenya to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta and explain his part of the story.
He called on the Kenyan government not to "isolate itself" by siding with one side in the conflict, which would drive it away from its historical role as neutral peace maker in the region.
KENYAN OFFICIAL REBUKES MPS
Meanwhile, former Kenya Vice President, Kalonzo Musyoka, who also served as Foreign Minister in the past, described the two MPs’ proposition to sanction the two top leaders in South Sudan and their families as “self-seeking” and could not make “sense.”
He said if there was a decision for Kenya to impose sanctions on South Sudan, this could be done either through the East African Community or the through the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), but not as a unilateral action.
“Kenya cannot therefore unilaterally impose sanctions; it’s a self-seeking proposition by the legislators concerned, in my view,” former Kenya Vice President, Musyoka, wrote in an article he published on Monday, 17 October, 2016, in response to the proposal.
“Matters of sanctions cannot be imposed by one country, and can only be discussed within the framework of IGAD. These Mps were just addressing the local problem,” he added.