Kenya will find siding with Kiir’s Juba Govt. is a risky game to play

By: Muthoni Wanyeki, THE EASTAFRICAN, FEB/01/2017, SSN;

IN SUMMARY: While the Kiir’s SPLM may seem to have sway right now, the region’s patience with it has long run out. Taking sides isn’t good for Kenya in the long-run. Neither, in the short-run.

The news broke this past Wednesday. Dong Samuel Luak, former secretary-general of the South Sudan Law Society — who has refugee status here in Kenya — and Aggrey Idri, chair of the humanitarian committee of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition, had both gone missing.

Dong Samuel Luak was last seen Monday evening and Aggrey Idri was last seen Monday morning. Both were reported to be in the custody of the Kenyan police, pending deportation back to South Sudan.

Searches by their families, together with legal representation and representation from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, began. No entries were recorded in the Occurrence Book at the Nairobi area police headquarters. By Thursday, the search had extended to Langata and Nyayo police stations, where at least one of them was reported to have been moved.

The Kenyan police continue to deny having them in their custody. It is during such periods of unacknowledged detention, before production in court, that detainees are at the most risk of torture and ill-treatment.

We all followed the deportation from Kenya to South Sudan of James Gatdet, spokesperson for the SPLM-IO at the end of last year. At the behest of the shambles that’s left of what was meant to be a coalition, transitional government. James Gatdet is now held in solitary confinement in South Sudan — reportedly in a cell no larger than 1.5 × 3 metres.

That deportation, given Kenya’s dominance in the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development — initially tasked with leading the regional effort peace — raised questions about Igad’s competency and independence.

The AU itself has had to step in —as well as the old so-called Troika of external actors. On Friday morning, in the presence of a large representation by the South Sudanese community, including former first lady Rebecca Garang, the High Court issued orders to the Department of Immigration to ensure no deportation of the two takes place; and directed all mobile telephone providers to make available all data relating to all known mobile numbers of the two as well as a mobile number believed to belong to a member of the South Sudanese National Security Service operating in Nairobi.

The decimation and scattering of the SPLM-IO’s leadership has meant that, on the surface at least, the SPLM proper holds sway. Which it is using to devastating and terrible effect.

The AU, for instance, is reported to have in hand a draft agreement between itself and what passes as the Transitional Government of National Unity of South Sudan on the establishment of the hybrid court to try those most responsible for the abominable mass atrocities committed in the course of the crisis. But the GoSS has had the audacity to refuse entry to the AU to even discuss these drafts.

A high-level meeting will thus be held during this AU Summit on reinvigorating the peace process. What the TGNU needs to be aware of is that the idea of an AU trusteeship for South Sudan is gaining traction given its continued belligerence.

So, while the SPLM may seem to have sway right now, the region’s patience with it has long run out. Taking sides isn’t good for Kenya in the long-run. Neither, in the short-run, is it good for the safety of Kenyans and Kenyan businesses in SPLM-IO controlled territories in South Sudan.

L. Muthoni Wanyeki is Amnesty International’s regional director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes

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