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Kenyan leader vows to spearhead regional peace initiatives

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta vowed Wednesday to continue spearheading regional peace initiatives to help bring stability in neighboring South Sudan and Somalia.

Kenyatta also committed to strengthening the capacity of the country’s security forces to keep the peace, noting that without peace the desire for a better Kenya will remain a mere wish.

He said it is in Kenya’s interest to have a stable Somalia and South Sudan, two of the immediate neighboring nations that have been most affected by insecurity.

Kenyatta said Somalia remains troubled, largely by foreign agents, who are weakening its government and dividing its people, stressing Kenya will continue supporting Somalia to regain stability.

The foreign agents troubling Somalia, he said, are also threatening to reverse the gains won under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces.

“Through it all, we remember that if our brothers and sisters in Somalia prosper, we prosper; if they are safe, so are we. It has been our policy, then, to help them regain the peace and prosperity they once knew,” Kenyatta said.

He said Kenya has continued helping Somalia secure funding and support commensurate to its challenges, recalling his visit to Somalia last year during which he spoke to Kenyan soldiers serving as part of the AMISOM forces.

Kenyatta told the country’s lawmakers that Kenya is also engaged in efforts to support South Sudan in finding a solution to its internal crisis, noting that Nairobi continues to stand with the people of South Sudan and has lent support to multilateral peace process.

“We continue to urge the leaders of South Sudan to put the interests of their people and motherland above their own,” said Kenyatta, noting that the East African Community is making progress with Kenya playing a leading role in championing integration.

The president said Kenya is committed to unity of the region and also for the continent, noting that Nairobi has set a trend by opening its borders for EAC citizens who can now live and work in the country more easily than ever.



UN urges South Sudan warring parties to respect truce deal

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has called on the country’s warring parties to abide by the truce agreement they signed late last year, warning that a surge of violence in Unity region “looks set to continue despite the ceasefire accord.

David Shearer, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and head of the UNMISS, called on the parties to fully implement the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement.

“All sides need to abide by what they agreed to and their actions on the ground carefully monitored and scrutinized,” he said late Wednesday during a visit to Leer and Dublual in the Unity region to see first-hand the impact of the deteriorating security situation.

According to a statement issued on Wednesday night after the visit, Shearer and a team from the UNIMISS met with both government and opposition leaders in the area, urging them to lay down their weapons, reconcile, and work together to build durable peace.

He said the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement last year had given the peace process momentum, but that it was at risk of unraveling without genuine political will.

“The intensification of the conflict is having a serious human impact. Hundreds of people are sheltering next to the UN base. We saw tukuls (huts) burnt to the ground. We were told that elderly people and children had been killed and medical clinics ransacked,” said Shearer.

He said UNMISS would continue to fulfill its mandate, adding that the UN mission’s job is still to protect people and help them get through these dark times so that the peace process can work.

“We will do all we can to support the people of South Sudan,” he said.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar led to split within the SPLA, leaving soldiers to fight alongside ethnic lines.

The 2015 peace agreement to end the conflict was weakened after the outbreak of renewed fighting in July 2016.


South Sudan denies rumors of president’s illness

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan President Salva Kiir is healthy and fit to perform his duties, top presidential aides said Wednesday amid allegations by a former government physician that the president is “mentally ill and unfit” to be in office.

Presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny described the report as lies and negative propaganda generated to degrade the image of South Sudanese leader.

“The president is very healthy and doing his work normally, therefore there is no reason to say that he is ill and unfit to lead our country. Those are lies,” Ateny told Xinhua by phone.

Last week, Mawien Akot, a former government medical consultant who previously worked at South Sudan’s biggest public health facility, the Juba Teaching Hospital, claimed that Kiir is ill and has no mental and physical ability to rule.

Andrew Akon Akech, head of the president’s medical unit, denied the accusations and said Akot has never served in the office of the president.


South Sudan appoints new army chief

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has named a senior military officer facing UN travel ban and asset freeze over alleged violations in the ongoing civil war as new army chief.

In a decree announced on state radio Wednesday evening, Kiir appointed Gabriel Jok Riak as new head of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), replacing the late James Ajongo Mawut, who died in Egypt mid April.

In 2015, the UN Security Council sanctioned Riak and two other top SPLA officials over their alleged role in the death of civilians during the start of the civil war in late 2013.

Three top opposition officials were also sanctioned by the UN. South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013, and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.

The UN estimates that about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 between the rival leaders under United Nations pressure led to the establishment of a transitional unity government, but was shattered by renewed fighting in July 2016.

The next round of peace talks spearheaded by the East African bloc, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), is scheduled to reconvene in Ethiopia on May 17.


Egypt voices support for peace efforts in South Sudan

CAIRO Egypt (Xinhua) -- Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said on Monday that his country supports efforts to achieve peace in South Sudan for enhanced security and stability in the African country.

Sisi made the remarks during a phone call with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir.

Egypt will continue to support South Sudan’s development, pointing to deep relations between the two countries, Spokesman for Egyptian Presidency Bassam Radi cited Sisi as saying.

For his part, Kiir said South Sudan is keen to promote cooperation with Egypt in different domains.

He updated Sisi on the latest political and security developments in South Sudan, hailing Egypt’s role in promoting stability in his country.

South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011, has been suffering a civil war since late 2013, months after Kiir’s dismissal of then Vice President Riek Machar, which led to fighting between Dinka ethnic soldiers loyal to Kiir and Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.

The conflict has displaced about a third of the 7.5-million population in the African country.



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