The President has strongly defended Kenya’s decision to pull troops out of South Sudan, saying regional peace should not come at the expense of the country’s dignity, honour and pride.
President Uhuru Kenyatta underlined on Thursday that the country will fully disengage from the South Sudan Peace Process.
“I must state very clearly that Kenya serves in these missions not because we have to,” he said, after presiding over the Kenya Defence Forces cadets’ commissioning parade.
This was at the Kenya Military Academy in Lanet, Nakuru county.
Uhuru said Kenya serves in the missions “because from the time of our independence we have been clear in our understanding and desire for global peace and stability”.
He said the service was in full recognition that regional and global peace mean peace for Kenya.
The President said the decision to withdraw from the peace process followed events involving the United Nations Mission to South Sudan.
Uhuru noted these led the United Nations Secretariat to place the blame for a systemic failure on an individual Kenyan commander.
“We know the people of this region want peace in South Sudan. But we also know peace will not come by blaming a Kenyan commander for the wider failings of the Mission to South Sudan,” he said.
He said Kenyan troops will be withdrawn with immediate effect contribution of troops to the proposed Regional Protection Force discontinued.
“We will no longer contribute to a mission that has failed to meet its mandate, and which has now resorted to scapegoating Kenyans,” he said.
Uhuru further observed that Kenya has contributed some of the most distinguished commanders to peacekeeping missions.
He gave the examples of Lieutenant General Daniel Opande who was Force Commander in Sierra Leone and Lieutenant General Ngondi who was a Force Commander in Liberia among others.
“Our men served with honour, valour and complete professionalism. And let it not be forgotten that some lost their lives in these missions,” he said.
The President congratulated the graduating cadets for completing a rigorous programme that tested their minds and bodies.
“You have passed the test and I trust that the skills you have learned, and the character this programme has formed will prove to be of enduring value to you and to your country,” said Uhuru.
He noted the cadets were joining the Kenya Defence Forces at a defining moment and will be called upon to fight terrorists and extremist groups that have threatened life at home and globally.
“We have fought them in Somalia and will continue to meet their cowardice with our courage knowing the balance of both military and moral power is in our favour,” he said.
“We will fight until these evil groups are destroyed. Make no mistake: we will win this war.”
Uhuru said the newly commissioned cadets will also be asked to join their compatriots to protect peace, as Kenya has a long and proud history of keeping peace across the world.
Since 1979, Kenyans have served in peacekeeping missions in Chad, Iran, Macedonia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Sudan. More than 6,000 officers are currently serving in the peace missions.
Defence Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo, Chief of Defence Forces General Samson Mwathethe, services commanders and Nakuru Governor Kinuthia Mbugua also attended the ceremony.