NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Even as millions of citizens in South Sudan face the violence of war, disease and hunger, families of some of the country's top political leaders live in the safety and comfort of neighboring Kenya's posh Nairobi suburbs. And some Kenyan legislators want to change that.
Six Kenyan legislators are asking the president to urge the African Union to slap sanctions on the leaders of South Sudan's warring sides, including the freezing of assets and sending back extended family members to South Sudan.
The legislators say if the families of warring leaders are sent back it could press those leaders to reach a deal at the negotiating table.
"There are two ways of sending them a wakeup call. Freeze their accounts or send their families back to Juba," said Kenyan Senator Bonny Khalwale. "If we give sanctions to these people I am sure they will wake up."
South Sudan has been rocked by violence since December, when President Salva Kiir accused former Vice President Riek Machar of staging a coup. The violence is increasingly taking on an ethnic dimension between Kiir's Dinka community and Machar's Nuer community.
The U.N. Security Council last week expressed "horror" at the recent massacre of several hundred civilians in the city of Bentiu by rebel fighters. It said council members may be willing to impose sanctions if attacks on civilians continue.
Kenyan parliamentarian Abdulahi Diriye said the fighting in South Sudan could lead to genocide. He said if Kiir and the Machar do not find peace Kenyan officials could ask the International Criminal Court prosecutor to start investigating.
A leader in Machar's rebel faction, Mabior De Garang, the son of late rebel leader John Garang, said he doesn't think such sanctions from Kenya would change the situation on the ground. De Garang, who answered a reporter's call placed to a Kenyan cellphone number, said an ethnically-driven cycle of revenge has begun among South Sudan's youths and it is beyond the control of Kiir and Machar.
"In the short-term it's a good gesture because it shows our neighbors care, but in the long-run even if we remove Riek Machar and Salva Kiir, how will we deal with the pain among the people?" De Garang said.
Kenyan parliamentarian Agostinho Neto said an extraordinary African Union summit should consider deploying AU troops to stop the fighting in South Sudan.
Kenneth Okoth, a member of parliament representing a Nairobi slum, said Kenya is losing economically as the conflict rages. Okoth said many Kenyan youths had found jobs in South Sudan. More than 25,000 Kenyans have been evacuated from South Sudan since the conflict began, the government says.