Kenya is at risk of losing millions of shillings economically, following renewed fighting in South Sudan.
As the world’s youngest nation tottered on the brink of another implosion, President Uhuru Kenyatta asked South Sudan leaders to get their act together and save the region from witnessing bloodshed and economic losses.
“President Kenyatta has already reached out to President Salva Kiir. It is with profound regret that we have observed the renewed fighting unravel in South Sudan. This is truly a very sad and difficult time for our neighbour,” State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu told reporters in Nairobi.
Violence resumed in South Sudan last week. It included deadly clashes between soldiers guarding President Kiir and First Vice-President Riek Machar.
It came just two months after the two leaders agreed to form a transitional government, created under a peace agreement signed last year.
On Sunday, President Kenyatta said Kenya will join other leaders in supporting the implementation of the peace agreement, but called on the South Sudan Government to lead by example.
“We join the region, and the global community in calling for a cessation of these brutal actions that endanger the lives of ordinary citizens. We hope stability will soon be restored for the sake of the people of South Sudan, whose freedom was so painfully won,” said the Head of State.
By Sunday evening, Mr Kiir, Dr Machar and Vice-President James Wani Igga were struggling to assure the world that they were committed to restoring normalcy.
But the effect of the violence on the Kenyan economy was already biting. On Sunday, national carrier Kenya Airways suspended daily flights to Juba, citing insecurity.
KQ SUSPENDED FLIGHTS
“We wish to advise our guests that we have suspended flights to Juba, South Sudan, due to the uncertain security situation,” the airline wrote on its Twitter page.
“We will advise you when the circumstances change and thank you for your continued support.”
This means the airline’s programme to recover from its recent losses has been affected.
KQ flies to Juba every day, transporting diplomats, business people and aid workers.
A suspension of flight schedules affects a chain of other important businesses, which could potentially reflect on the balance sheet.
But the impact is much more.
On Sunday, South Sudan Deputy Ambassador to Nairobi Jimmy Makuach told the Nation there was still scanty information about the safety of civilians but argued fighting had died down in the city.
“There was fighting between rebels and the government forces but some parts of the city are calm now,” he said.
“It is too early to tell about the civilian situation. We will gather the facts and give you an update.”
When the violence erupted in Juba in December 2013, Kenya had to spend about Sh200 million to evacuate its citizens stranded in the city and meet the humanitarian needs of those trapped in the country but did not want to return.
There was a warning that Kenya could lose billions if that war continued for the next five years.
Besides, Kenyan businesses such as banks, IT firms and insurance companies operating in South Sudan had to either close some of their branches or boost security, which was at a cost.
In the end, London-based consultants Frontiers Economics, the Centre for Peace and Development Studies in South Sudan and Uganda’s Centre for Conflict Resolution published a report last year showing that Kenya had lost Sh27 billion in revenue due to the conflict.
As peace returned to the country, more than 7,000 Kenyans who lived in South Sudan before 2013 went back.
LEADERS PILED PRESSURE
On Sunday, regional leaders piled pressure on Juba to avert further bloodshed after fighting continued throughout the day. President Kenyatta called on Juba to remove all heavy weapons from the city to avoid civilian casualties.
Part of the agreement signed between Mr Kiir and Dr Machar required that Juba be demilitarised, meaning that all war weapons were to be taken to centres out of the capital.
But the same agreement also says that Mr Kiir and Dr Machar will retain control over their respective troops until the two sides merge.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which mediated the agreement, condemned the violence and urged both parties to respect the peace deal.
“The leaders of South Sudan should honour the promise they made to the people of South Sudan five years ago on 9th July 2011, when the country became independent. It was then declared that peace would prevail and development and democracy would be guaranteed,” IGAD said in a statement.
“IGAD abhors the loss of lives and fears for civilian casualties if the situation is not contained immediately, and urges all concerned to exercise restraint and demonstrate true leadership by doing all they can to stop the violence.”
Sunday’s fighting began on the city’s western outskirts, where both former rebels and government soldiers have bases at the foot of the Jebel Kujur Mountain.
The nearby UN House site is home to roughly 28,000 people previously uprooted by the war and live in makeshift houses. Aid workers said bullets had landed inside the UN camp, wounding some civilians.
The violence comes a day after the world’s youngest country marked its fifth independence anniversary, and is a fresh blow to a peace deal that has failed to end the civil war that broke out in December 2013.
Additional reporting by AFP