Nairobi, Kenya - Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, has kicked off a one-day tour of troubled South Sudan, a day after chairing a top security meeting which approved the deployment of additional troops to bolster security in Kenya’s northern neighbourhood, state officials said here Wednesday.
President Kenyatta is visiting South Sudan after renewed clashes in Malakal in an apparent defiance to a truce agreement signed under the leadership of the regional peace body, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), to allow for the start of peace talks in neighbouring Ethiopia.
President Kenyatta was due to hold talks with host President Salva Kiir on the unfolding military crisis amid concerns by the Kenyan government that the continued crisis there was hampering relief efforts.
Kenya’s National Security Council (NSC), which comprises the President, senior security chiefs, including Kenya’s Chief of Defence Forces, the National Intelligence Agency Chief, the Kenya Police Chief and foreign and interior ministers, met for the first time Tuesday to review the civil crisis in South Sudan.
The NSC recommended to the Kenyan parliament to authorize 310 troops to the Kenyan Battalion (Kenbatt22) in South Sudan following the UN Security Council Resolution of 24 Dec. 2013.
Kenya’s decision to deploy additional troops to a UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan appears to be a tactical change of heart after opposition to an UN earlier request for additional troops there.
“The National Security Council discussed the conflict in South Sudan and expressed deep concern,” said Manoah Esipisu, the State House Spokesperson, after the meeting.
“The NSC expressed deep concern over the continuing and escalating military activities in South Sudan in total disregard and violation of the cessation of hostilities agreement.”
Kenya has been opposed to any military engagement in South Sudan, warning it might complicate efforts to attain a peaceful resolution to the internal conflicts in the country.
The conflict there, since 15 December, which erupted during a delegates conference by the ruling Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM), has so far displaced 900,000 people.
The warring sides agreed in a 23 January agreement to restore peace by observing a ceasefire that would be strictly monitored by an internationally-recognised ceasefire monitoring body.
President Kenyatta, who received a briefing on the worsening humanitarian crisis, including the increased inflow of refugees, hoped the South Sudanese parties would take part in peace talks in Addis Ababa.
Kenyan officials say the South Sudanese parties must realize that the cost of failing to participate in the talks would lead to a worse humanitarian crisis on the ground.
The Kenyan concerns over the possible violations to the South Sudanese ceasefire came amid reported “patterns of looting and attacks” against health facilities in the South Sudan.
The Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned in a report that hospitals were looted by fighters.
The fighting has been between government-backed troops and fighters loyal to former South Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar.