Yes, impose sanctions on South Sudan leaders

While trade and bilateral talks informed much of the discussions President Uhuru Kenyatta had with visiting South African President Jacob Zuma, something unusual happened at a media briefing on Wednesday.

A reporter’s question to the two Presidents on whether they were willing to go the extra mile and impose sanctions on the families and associates of President Salva Kiir and his former estranged Vice President Riek Machar if only to ensure there was peace in South Sudan was brushed aside.

Well, this newspaper has argued before that regional powers, especially Kenya, have every reason to be concerned about the raging violence in South Sudan.

The hostilities in Africa’s newest country have so far claimed more than 10,000 lives and displaced more than 2 million while more than 250,000 have sought refuge within UN peace keeping bases since hostilities erupted in December 2013. A political row that erupted after Mr Kiir sacked Dr Machar has spiralled into a full-blown armed conflict. A peace deal to end the fighting fell through in April thrusting the mineral-rich and oil-rich country deeper into chaos and anarchy.

And last month, a report by The Sentry, a watchdog, showed that the families of the protagonists in the conflict lived in affluence a few metres away from each other in Nairobi’s upmarket suburbs. What an irony. No doubt, Kenya has the levers by which it can force the hand of the parties to choose peace and abandon violence and destruction.

And therefore, a proposal by two parliamentary committees to impose sanctions on South Sudan leaders comes at a most opportune time.

Kenya should make it clear that their family and kin will not enjoy peace and quiet in Nairobi suburbs while they do nothing to stop trouble back at home.

Ultimately, it is up to the people of South Sudan to decide on the future of their country, but the rest of the region, least of all, Kenya, cannot afford to wait and see.