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UN says it values Kenya’s troop presence in South Sudan

Thursday November 3 2016

Troops from Ethiopia deployed by the United

Troops from Ethiopia deployed by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan patrol on foot outside the premises of the UN Protection of Civilians site in Juba, South Sudan, on October 4, 2016. Kenya has said it is withdrawing its troops from the mission after a Kenyan officer was removed as commander. PHOTO | AFP 

KEVIN J. KELLEY
By KEVIN J. KELLEY
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United Nations officials “obviously value” Kenyan military and police contributions to peacekeeping operations in South Sudan, a UN spokesman said on Wednesday.

The comment to reporters came in response to the Kenyan government’s announcement hours earlier that it is pulling all its forces out of South Sudan and disengaging from the peace process in the war-torn country.

The Foreign Ministry in Nairobi said the action was prompted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s sacking on Tuesday of Lt-Gen Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki, the Kenyan commander of the UN mission in South Sudan (Unmiss).

"The process leading to this unfortunate decision not only lacked transparency but did not involve any formal consultation with the government of Kenya,” said a statement by Principal Secretary Monica Juma.

Mr Ban ordered the replacement of Lt-Gen Ondieki on the basis of a report by special UN investigators who cited multiple failures on the part of Unmiss leaders in protecting civilians during attacks by government and rebel forces in Juba in July.

The Kenyan Foreign Ministry said Lt-Gen Ondieki was personally not to blame for what it called “systemic disfunctionality" within Unmiss.

UN spokesman Stephen Dujarric said on Wednesday that the special investigators’ report “does address issues - much broader issues within the mission.”

He added that the UN had not been officially apprised of Kenya’s announced decision to withdraw its 1,000-plus troops from Unmiss, which currently includes 13,723 uniformed personnel.

Kenya also said it was reversing its decision to contribute to a 4,000-strong UN civilian protection force for South Sudan authorized by the Security Council in August.