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Kenyans in South Sudan assured of safety

OPINION
By Michael Cherambos | July 21st 2016

About 30,000 Kenyans are desperate in a land far away from home. Some are staring at the horizon in hope of rescue as they pray for safe evacuation. Some could be dead.

The situation in South Sudan is bad. It is, however, evident that President Uhuru Kenyatta has been firm with President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar on the need to restore peace and cultivate a spirit of trust.

The Kenyan government hosted the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (Igad) Council of Ministers meeting in Nairobi on July 11 to discuss how to resolve the conflict and resume a peaceful co-existence in Juba.

Igad's Chiefs of Defence Forces visited Juba as a follow-up measure on the resolutions from the inter-ministerial meetings that were held in Nairobi.

Kenya, in liaison with Ethiopia, is considering the deployment of troops into Juba in a peacekeeping mission. Indeed, Kenya’s diplomacy is bearing fruit because there is a temporary ceasefire in Juba.

There is also the recent appointment of General Augostino Njoroge and Chris Mburu to the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) and the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM) in the country, which is an indication of commitment to peace.

JMEC is in charge of monitoring the peace agreement that was signed in Addis Ababa that created the Transitional Government of South Sudan while CTSAMM is responsible for, and reports to, the monitoring compliance and evaluation on the progress of the implementation of the Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements

The world’s newest country has and will for the near future continue to live in a bubble as hopes, enthusiasm and the pride of its citizens enjoyed after their independence is wiped out by sporadic violence and mistrust among its top leaders.

Although the guns have temporarily gone silent in Juba, the war is just next door and a simple misconstrued opinion is enough to ignite another battle.

But what is important for now is the safety of Kenyans in South Sudan. The Kenyan Embassy in Juba has provided a safe haven within its chancery to Kenyans who feel insecure in their areas of residence or work within South Sudan.

The challenges of a young nation with egocentric leaders are evident, but more must be done to address the individual challenges of those stranded in Juba and other towns. This, of course requires patience, strategy and money even as the feeling of helplessness for the families of people stranded in Juba grows.

That feeling is justifiable especially when their safety is not guaranteed. However, the consistent and strategic diplomatic engagement between Kenya and South Sudan has seen the resumption of Kenya Airways flights to Juba thus providing an opportunity for any Kenyan to return safely home.

This is one avenue of safe passage that has been negotiated by the Kenya Government.

Despite calls by the Government that Kenyans should contact the Kenyan embassy in South Sudan for assistance to get out of the country, some with businesses there are reluctant to leave.

They feel, and justifiably so, that their investments are at stake if they were to just take off. It is a delicate situation that they find themselves in.

For now, there is a ceasefire and movement in Juba is slowly returning to normal. Stranded Kenyans seeking help should talk to embassy officials because the Government has prioritized their well-being. This is sure to inspire hope and minimise any anxiety.

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