A pothole on the road cannot declare the road ‘closed’-FrMar-By CHARLES OMONDI-Posted Thursday, August 16 2012 at 18:31Reports of Kenyans being killed in South Sudan are, to say the least, most depressing.
According to an update presented in Parliament by Foreign minister Sam Ongeri, 24 Kenyans have been killed in South Sudan since 2008, five of them this year.
As MPs have rightly demanded, the government must take measures to stem any further loss of lives of Kenyans residing and working in South Sudan. The government must go beyond mere assurances that it has brought the concerns to the attention of South Sudan.
There is no doubt that the number of Kenyans in South Sudan is considerable. However, their numbers pale into insignificance compared to South Sudanese residing in Kenya. Indeed there are many South Sudanese who have never known any other home apart from Kenya.
At the risk of being branded an unbridled patriot, I dare say that Kenyans in South Sudan add value to the lives of their hosts. They have done this for years, including during the dangerous period of over two decades of war between the mainly Islamic and Arab north and the Christian and traditionalist south.
Kenya was the nerve centre of Operation Lifeline Sudan that saved millions of lives of South Sudanese from the ravages of the war and its attendant consequences.
Several other international NGOs targeting southern Sudan based their operations in Kenya as the war-ravaged region lacked basic infrastructure.
Today, Kenyans in South Sudan provide services in the hospitality industry, ICT sector, building and construction, banking, education, and even security.
Which well-meaning State would want to harm such critical manpower? That South Sudan could grind to a halt if there was a mass exodus of Kenyans may not be an exaggeration.
Mutual respect between nations is desirable, but the infant nation owes Kenya more than any other country. Kenya not only played a critical role in negotiating talks that culminated in South Sudan’s secession and eventual independence last July, but also continues to host hundreds of thousands of its citizens.
With South Sudan’s relations with Sudan (Khartoum) ever frosty, Kenya continues to be a vital economic lifeline to the former. Several long-term projects such as Lappset (Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport) and an oil pipeline further attest to the important role Kenya was destined to play in the economy of the landlocked neighbouring state.
As a founding member of the East Africa Community, Kenya’s advocacy role for Juba’s admission cannot be underestimated.
The world is a community of nations and an eye-for-an-eye approach would not be the most appropriate reaction to the killing of Kenyans in South Sudan.
However, Kenya must take decisive measures against its north-western neighbour, if need be. Among other things, there should be a demand for a comprehensive inquiry into the killings, with a view to having the perpetrators punished. Juba must also give an undertaking to do all within its means to protect the lives of all the innocent foreigners within its territory.
South Sudanese authorities must be reminded that hundreds of their nationals live in other countries, where they too expect to be protected by the host governments. That the many years of war in South Sudan left all manner of firearms in the wrong hands is understandable.
However, most recent deaths of Kenyans have happened in the hands of government functionaries, implying that Juba has the capacity to bring them to an end.
South Sudanese must also realise that the war years are now over and the fighting mentality must now give way to more constructive engagement, not only among themselves, but also with the rest of the world.
Tales abound of Kenyans who have lost their businesses to South Sudanese, courtesy of unfair business laws. Others tell of how the locals patronise their business premises only to walk away without paying, arrogantly pronouncing that they were in their country whose independence they fought hard for.
A good neighbourly relationship is a two-way traffic and all concerned parties must be alive to this fact.
Mr Omondi is Editor, AfricaReview.Com, a Nation Media Group news portal (