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Stop reckless talk on South Sudan Kenya Defence Forces troops withdrawal

OPINION
By Aden Duale | November 20th 2016

The President’s order for withdrawal of Kenyan soldiers from United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNIMISS) has elicited criticisms driven mainly by ignorance. Some have seized on the situation, which is of grave national importance, for political capital.

Even after detailed explanations have been given on why the move was made, a section of politicians from the Opposition are mischievously refusing to see logic in a matter that’s crystal clear.
One wonders why this obsession with self-serving politics even on issues that touch on the security of the nation.

As Prime Minister, ODM leader Raila Odinga had an opportunity to work in the topmost echelons of government and ought to be aware that sensitive and weighty national matters should not be subject of reckless and frivolous politicking.

We must learn to divorce politics from such matters which have potentially far-reaching implications. It is also dangerous to make claims merely meant to attract attention of the gallery on such issues, especially when you are not privy to full information.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is the Commander-in-Chief, did not just arbitrarily decide to order soldiers to leave their lines and return to the barracks. Before such critical decisions are made, comprehensive deliberations are made and guidance sought from relevant constitutional provisions. It is not a knee-jerk reaction, neither is it based on a whim. It is worth noting that the President swore not only to adhere to the Constitution but also to defend it at all times.

Some have said the President should have sought the approval of Parliament. While Article 240(8) expressly stipulates that the approval of Parliament is mandatory prior to deployment of armed forces both within and outside Kenya, there is no explicit provision in the Constitution requiring the Commander-in-Chief to seek such an approval with regard to withdrawal of forces.

Article 131(1)(c) of the Constitution also provides that one element of the authority of the President is his role as the Commander-in-Chief of the defence forces. In this role, Article 132(4)(e) empowers him, subject to the approval of Parliament, to declare war. However, there is no requirement within Article 132 that the President seek the approval of Parliament to cease the hostilities afterwards.

In the absence of any express provision requiring Parliamentary approval for the recall or withdrawal of national forces deployed either within or outside Kenya, it would fall squarely on the shoulders of the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the defence forces and the chairperson of the National Security Council to sanction such recall or withdrawal. Those, therefore, pretending to be experts in military matters and peddling fallacies are acting out of complete ignorance.

It is worth noting that Kenya is globally acclaimed for the fundamental role it has played in aiding to bring and maintain peace in war-torn countries all over the world. Our soldiers are indisputably among the best in terms of discipline and dedication to duty. Their commitment is unquestionable, their discipline unimpeachable and their sacrifices immeasurable. This is why whenever there is need to keep peace anywhere in the world, they have been been part of the peace-keepers. From Liberia to Burundi, Eritrea, former Yugoslavia, Namibia to Sierra Leone, our sons and daughters have acquitted themselves quite admirably. Our commanders, as exemplified by the outstanding performance by General Daniel Opande in Sierra Leone and Liberia, have made Kenya proud.

In Somalia, our gallant soldiers have been at the heart of the fierce and deadly fight against terrorism. Some have paid the ultimate prize yet this has not deterred us from bravely pursuing the cause of peace. In South Sudan, they have been very instrumental in maintaining peace until the unfortunate situation where Kenya was compelled to recall its troops. But this was no fault of our soldiers and their command structure nor was it an error of judgement by the Commander-in-Chief.

The reasons for the withdrawal from UNMISS are clearly outlined. It was misguided for the United Nations to blame the Kenyan commander for a problem that is systematic of the entire command structure. The right thing to do would have been to look at the inherent weaknesses of the whole mission and not to single out Kenya for blame and ridicule.

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