About 100 Kenyan soldiers who were serving in South Sudan returned home Wednesday, as Kenya began to withdraw forces from the U.N. peacekeeping mission.
The Kenyan government has said it will withdraw its 1,000 troops from South Sudan in response to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s firing of the Kenyan commander of the mission, Lieutenant General Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki.
The first batch of soldiers were flown to Nairobi on Wednesday.
“We have started our withdrawal from South Sudan following the directive given by his excellency the president and commander in chief of the Kenya Defense Forces last week,” Major General Benjamin Biwott of the Kenya Defense Forces told reporters.
A U.N. inquiry accused the fired Kenyan commander of failing to protect civilians during heavy fighting in the South Sudan capital of Juba in July. Investigators said a lack of leadership led to a “chaotic and ineffective response.”
Some 300 people were killed in several days of fighting between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his rival, former vice president Riek Machar. The fighting was a major setback to a 2015 peace treaty intended to end South Sudan’s civil war.
General Biwott said Kenyan forces have taken part in more than 40 peacekeeping missions over the years, and that the country is still committed to peacekeeping operations as long as they are deeply rooted in professionalism.