Kenya has resolved to withdraw its peacekeeping troops from the U.N. mission in South Sudan and to disengage from the country’s peace process.
This came after the Kenyan force commander Lt General Johnson Ondieki was fired by U.N. Chief Ban Ki Moon in a U.N. investigation which found that peacekeepers did not protect civilians when fighting erupted in the capital in July between government and opposition forces.
Some peacekeepers abandoned their positions, and others refused to deploy to rescue civilians trapped in a nearby hotel, according to a statement issued by the UNSG spokesman, Stephane Dujarric.
Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying the process to remove Ondieki “not only lacked transparency but did not involve any formal consultation with the Government of Kenya,” and that it showed a “complete disregard for our country.”
There are roughly 1,000 Kenyan peacekeepers in South Sudan–a 4,000 strong peacekeeping force to reinforce UNMISS’ existing 12,000 troops is also expected to be deployed.
In a statement, President Kenyatta said, “events involving the UN Mission to S. Sudan led UN Secretariat to place the blame for a systemic failure on an individual Kenyan commander.”
“We intend to withdraw Kenyan troops from the mission [and] will discontinue our contribution of troops to the proposed Regional Protection Force,” he said.
“We will no longer contribute to a mission that has failed to meet its mandate and which has now resorted to scapegoating Kenyans,” he added.
National Courier quotes the Russian Ambassador to the UN who has criticised the UN Secretary General saying the decision was “premature”.
Speaking to the reporters in New York, the Ambassador said that the Russian Federation is still opposed to imposition of arms embargo on South Sudan.
LTGEN Johnson Ondieki took command of UNMISS forces just 21 days before fighting which has cost him his job erupted in Juba.
Who is Gen Ondieki
Lieutenant General Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki is a Kenyan national born in 1960. He hails from the Kisii, a tribe that inhabits western Kenya.
A married father of three, LTGEN Ondieki is a career soldier with more than 30 years of service in the Kenyan army.
He has steadily risen through the ranks over the years and is credited with spearheading operations in Somalia against Al-Shabab as a Brigadier in 2012.
LTGEN Ondieki has extensive experience as an officer in peacekeeping operations. In 2003 he served as a battalion commander of Kenya Army’s 10th Battalion in Sierra Leon.
Several years later he was assigned peacekeeping missions again between 2010-2011 as a Sector Commander in United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).
In 2011 he was made Land Forces Component Commander of the Kenya Defence Forces in Operations until 2012.
He was then promoted to the rank of a Major General and took charge as General Officer Commanding Western Command, Kenya Army. In 2013 he was promoted again to the post of Deputy Army Chief-of-Staff, Command and Control of Kenya Defence Forces.
He was then appointed to command UNMISS forces on the 13th of May 2016, and officially took office on the 17th of June 2016.
Three weeks later on the 8th of July 2016 fighting broke out in Juba and lasted until the 11th of July with a brief lull on the 9th of July.
A subsequent UN investigation into the conduct of UNMISS forces found abject failure in leadership that failed civilians fleeing conflict and aid workers. As a result the UN placed the blame on LT GEN Ondieki who was just 21 days into the job and fired him.
Kenya has taken exception to the decision and the manner in which the decision was made.
Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said LTGEN Ondieki was being made scapegoat of systemic failures by UN Department Peacekeeping Operations in New York.
As a result, Kenya has decided to withdraw all its 1,023 soldiers serving as peacekeepers in South Sudan and disengage from South Sudan’s peace process.
Profile by: The National Courier/Daily Nation/The Star