Pressure is piling on Kenya to rescind its decision to withdraw from the South Sudan peace process as the United Nations and regional leaders reach out to other countries to contribute to regional protection force.
The heads of state from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) met on December 9 in Addis Ababa to identify the source of the 4,000 regional protection force that had been approved by the UN in August.
Kenya was one of the three countries that had earlier volunteered to contribute troops besides Ethiopia and Rwanda, but President Uhuru Kenyatta early last month pulled out 1,165 troops within the UN Mission in South Sudan (Unmiss) protesting the sacking of force commander Lt-Gen Mogoa Kimani Ondieki.
President Kenyatta said Kenya would stay out of the entire South Sudan peace process, despite the country being the rapporteur of the August 2015 South Sudan peace agreement. The Kenyan troops in Unmiss have since been replaced by 850 troops from Bangladesh.
Sources at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told The EastAfrican that Nairobi had accepted to play other roles in the South Sudan peace process in the future following appeals from the region, but remained adamant that it would not contribute troops for a protection force under UN command.
Algeria, which is a member of the Igad-Plus representing North Africa, is considered as the likely replacement for Kenya. Other Igad Plus members are Nigeria, Chad and South Africa.
Kenya is maintaining a delicate balance between staying away from the South Sudan process and at the same time seeking the support of the region to back Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed for the post of African Union Commission chairperson.
According to the South Sudan Permanent Repetitive to the AU James Morgan, Kenya’s pulling out of the regional and international stage does not help because the country cannot run away from the issues affecting its backyard.
“South Sudan in looking at Kenya as its big brother and it is our hope that Kenya will reconsider its position. Kenya cannot runway from its own shadow,” said Mr Morgan.
During attack in July, Lt-Gen Ondieki, who had not been inducted into the mission, is said to have asked an incident commander “to react,” as is the norm within the UN peacekeeping structure.