The first of around 1 000 Kenyan soldiers returned from South Sudan on Wednesday as the government followed through on a threat to withdraw from the UN peacekeeping mission.
The first batch of 100 troops landed in Nairobi a week after Kenya said it would pull out in protest at a UN decision to fire the Kenyan commander of the mission for failing to protect civilians.
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sacked Lieutenant General Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki after an investigation said lack of leadership led to a “chaotic and ineffective response” during heavy fighting in the capital Juba in July.
Ordering the withdrawal of Kenya’s peacekeepers, President Uhuru Kenyatta last week accused the UN of “scapegoating Kenyans” for the wider failings of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and said he would no longer play a role in the failed efforts to mediate peace in the country.
“Today we have started our withdrawal from South Sudan following President Kenyatta’s directive last week,” said Major General Benjamin Biwott as the first troops landed at Nairobi’s main airport aboard a UN-chartered plane.
He insisted Kenya had served in an exemplary way in over 40 peacekeeping missions. “In all the places we have gone, we have performed very well,” Biwott said.
The remaining Kenyan peacekeepers are due to return from South Sudan in the coming days.