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Kenya pulls troops out of UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan

After the UN fired the Kenyan head of its South Sudanese peacekeeping force, Kenya is pulling its troops out of the mission. A scathing UN report said peacekeeping forces failed to protect citizens.

After Kenyan Lieutenant General Johnson Moggoa Kimani Ondieki was sacked from his position as commander of a UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan on Tuesday, Kenya announced a complete withdrawal from the mission on Wednesday.

The foreign affairs ministry said in a statement that continued deployment of its troops in "South Sudan is no longer tenable and is inimical to their safety and well-being." Kenya will also "discontinue plans to contribute to the Regional Protection Force, and…disengage from the South Sudan peace process."

Kenya had over 1,000 troops in the UN peacekeeping force in South Sudan, and previously pledged an additional 4,000 peacekeepers, though some South Sudanese officials were against the extra influx. Ondieki's command also included forces from China, Ethiopia, Nepal and India.

Damning report

Ondieki was in charge of the UNMISS (United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan) peacekeeping force from May until Tuesday, when the UN released a report that described a "chaotic and ineffective response" during a wave of violence in the South Sudanese capital, Juba, from July 8 to 11. The fighting, involving helicopter gunships and tanks, was part of South Sudan's civil war between supporters of President Salva Kiir and ex-rebel chief Riek Machar. At least 73 people were killed in the fighting, including more than 20 internally displaced people who had sought UN protection in what was supposed to be a safe zone, according to Tuesday's independent report commissioned by the UN.

Südsudan Angriff auf UN-Blauhelm Soldaten (picture-alliance/AP/CCTV)

UN peacekeepers were strongly criticized in their response to heavy fighting in Juba in July

UN peacekeepers abandoned their posts and did not respond to pleas for help from a nearby hotel compound. Chinese peacekeepers abandoned their posts at least twice and Nepalese troops could not prevent looting at a UN compound.

The report said "a lack of leadership on the part of key senior mission personnel culminated in a chaotic and ineffective response to the violence." UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was "alarmed by the serious shortcomings" in the mission and demanded Ondieki be replaced, said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Kenya thoroughly disagreed with the statement, saying the way the UN handled the "grave matter will not address the root causes of the unfortunate incidences in South Sudan, nor does it offer a sustainable solution to the recurring violence in South Sudan." Kenya continued by criticizing the UN peacekeeping mission, saying it "suffers from fundamental structural and systemic dysfunctionality."

The South Sudanese civil war has been raging since 2013, barely two years after the country gained independence from Sudan. Tens of thousands have been killed and more than two million displaced since the fighting began.

kbd/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

 

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