The Kenyan commander of the United Nations peacekeeping force in South Sudan is now “on leave,” and a Chinese military officer has been named acting commander, a UN spokesman has said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had called on Tuesday for the sacking of Lt-Gen Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki of Kenya following the release of an investigative report.
It documented failures at the top of the UN Mission in South Sudan (Unmiss) in responding to attacks in July on its headquarters and on civilian compounds in Juba.
Lt-Gen Ondieki has been replaced on an acting basis by Maj-Gen Chaoying Yang, the Unmiss deputy commander, UN spokesman Stephen Dujarric said.
Maj-Gen Yang was not serving as head of the Chinese Unmiss battalion that is cited in the investigative report as having abandoned some of its positions on two occasions during the July attacks.
“We have full confidence in the ability of Maj Gen Yang to perform those functions” as acting commander, Mr Dujarric said on Wednesday.
Kenya has rejected a UN offer to nominate a replacement for Lt Gen Ondieki, according to a statement issued on Wednesday by the Foreign ministry in Nairobi.
Kenya responded angrily to the announced sacking, saying it will immediately withdraw its roughly 1,000 soldiers and police from Unmiss, which currently includes 13,723 uniformed personnel.
Spokesman Dujarric said in response that UN officials “obviously value” Kenya’s contributions to Unmiss.
The UN has not received formal notification of Kenya’s withdrawal from Unmiss, he added.
The UN is meanwhile refusing to release the full version of the investigative report overseen by Dutch retired Maj-Gen Patrick Cammaert.
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Amnesty International called on Wednesday for the full findings to be published, but Mr Dujarric said that document “will not be released.”
Amnesty also suggested that the sacking of Lt-Gen Ondieki is not a sufficient response to the findings of the investigative team.
“Change at the top of the peacekeeping mission in South Sudan has to be matched by fast and drastic change amongst its 16,000 peacekeepers,” the human rights group said.
“It’s time they implemented their mandate to protect civilians from killing and rape.”
On Thursday, President Kenyatta emphasized his decision to pull Kenyan troops out of Unmiss and faulted the UN Secretariat for placing blame on what he called “systematic failures” of the peace mission on an individual Kenyan commander.
“We know that the people of South Sudan want peace and Kenyans also want peace for South Sudan. But peace will not come to South Sudan by blaming a Kenyan on failures,” he said in Nakuru.
“Kenya serves in this mission not because of need for recognition but commitment to global peace because global and regional peace means peace for Kenya.”
He spoke after presiding over the commissioning parade of cadets at Kenya Military Academy in Lanet.
“Our men and women serve with honour, with valour and with complete professionalism, and let it not be forgotten that some lost their lives in peace keeping missions,” he said.
Kenya, he said, would no longer contribute to a mission that has failed to meet its mandate and which has now resorted to putting blame on Kenyans.
“So I repeat again that we intend to withdraw Kenyan troops from that mission with immediate effect, and that we will discontinue our contribution of troops to the proposed regional protection force,” he said.