By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
October 11, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – A South Sudanese opposition group, the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) on Thursday expressed concern by the decision by the Kenyan government to withdraw its troops from peacekeeping mission in South Sudan.
- UN peacekeepers offer protection to residents of Jonglei state, South Sudan (UN photo)
Last week, the Kenyan government ordered the immediate withdrawal of its troops currently in deployment in South Sudan, and discontinued plans to contribute to the Regional Protection Force (RPF).
The first batch of about 100 troops flew to Kenya on Wednesday.
Kenya’s decision to withdraw its troops who were part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan was in response to the sacking of the Kenyan commander heading the peacekeepers.
The world body accused the peacekeepers of failing to respond to an attack on a Juba-based hotel, leading to the death of several civilians in July.
A report from an independent investigation body prompted the Secretary General to sack Kenya’s Lt. Gen. Johnson Mogoa Kimani.
The South Sudanese opposition group, however, said Kenya’s decision, which also includes disengagement from South Sudan’s peace process, was not a decision expected from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) member states.
“While it’s within Kenya’s sovereignty, we are dismayed by these unfortunate decisions of the Government of Kenya given its prominent role and responsibilities as a member of IGAD,” the opposition entity said in a release extended to Sudan Tribune.
PDM appealed to AU member states to withhold their support for Kenya’s nominee to head the AU Commission as being untenable, primarily due to its hasty withdrawal of its commitments to regional and international peacekeeping efforts, regardless of the implications to human lives and regional security it was entrusted with.
The group also appealed to Kenya, and particularly on President Uhuru Kenyatta to show restraint and statesmanship in the interest of rebuilding confidence across South Sudan’s political spectrum.
It further condemned Kenya’s recent decision to deport the armed opposition (SPLM-IO) spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, to Juba.
“We are deeply concerned about James Gatdet Dak’s welfare and safety in the hands of the South Sudanese government in Juba and have reasons to believe he is facing torture as a result of his political affiliation,” further read the opposition group’s statement.
Dak’s deportation, it said, violates the ‘Principle of non- refoulement’ (article 33(1)) of the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees1 as well as under customary international law, to which Kenya is obligated.
“It is therefore unfortunate that the government of Kenya intentionally endangers the life of a refugee under its protection, against the advice of UNHCR,” the group said.
The South Sudanese opposition group called on Kenya to “refrain” from actions that could further jeopardize South Sudan’s peace process and regional cohesion, by remaining a neutral partner and upholding its responsibility to regional stability.
PDM commended UN refugee agency’s quest to ensure the safety of over 87,000 South Sudanese refugees in Kenya, and called upon the UN Secretary General to support this commitment, using all means available.