NAIROBI: The first batch of Kenyan troops who had served in a UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan arrived home on Wednesday, after Nairobi ordered them to withdraw in response to the sacking of the Kenyan commander of the UNMISS force.
Kenya said last week it would pull its forces out after a UN inquiry accused UNMISS of failing to respond to an attack on a Juba hotel during fighting in July. Kenya’s Lieutenant General Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki was fired.
“Today we have started our withdrawal from South Sudan,” Kenyan Major General Benjamin Biwott told reporters at Nairobi’s international airport as about 100 soldiers flew in.
He said further batches of soldiers from the roughly 1,000-strong Kenyan contingent would arrive in coming days, although he did not give a precise timing for completing the withdrawal from UNMISS, which comprised about 12,000 troops.
The general said Kenyan soldiers had taken part in peacekeeping operations in 44 countries over the past four decades and Kenya was continuing in its other missions.
“We are committed in our peacekeeping operations as a credible and well-trained force,” he said.
The Juba hotel attack occurred in July during several days of fighting between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former vice president, Riek Machar. The two men have long been political rivals and come from different ethnic groups.
A civil conflict erupted in South Sudan in December 2013, but the two leaders signed a peace deal in 2015 that was meant to halt the fighting, but it failed to stick. Machar has since left the country and sporadic clashes have continued.
Sudan steps up arrests: Meanwhile, Sudanese security agents seized an opposition party leader from his home early on Wednesday, the latest in a wave of arrests aimed at stifling protests over fuel price increases, his party said.
At least nine other opposition leaders have been detained over the past two days as the government seeks to prevent a repeat of two months of protests in 2013 that required a deadly crackdown to crush.
Sudanese Congress Party leader Omar Al-Digair was taken from his home in Omdurman — the capital’s twin city — at 2:00 am (2300 GMT Tuesday), party spokesman Mohamed al-Arabi said.
Four other party members, including deputy leader Khaled Omar, were already in custody.
Arabi said security agents also raided the party’s headquarters on Tuesday evening and arrested five student activists.
The party had joined the Communist Party and the Baath Party in calling for protests over subsidy cuts that triggered a 30 per cent spike in the price of petrol and diesel.
Groups of protesters have staged small rallies in parts of Khartoum and in the town of Medani south of the capital, but they were quickly dispersed by anti-riot police.
Similar fuel subsidy cuts triggered the deadly unrest of 2013 which drew widespread international criticism.
The government has been forced to progressively reduce fuel subsidies since 2011 when South Sudan seceded and took with it nearly three-quarters of the formerly united country’s oil reserves.
Government officials and leaders of the ruling National Congress Party were not immediately available for comment on the latest arrests. — Agencies