By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
March 31, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese who recently entered Ethiopia from Kenya have accused the Ethiopian embassy in Nairobi of allegedly denying them travel visas.
The refugees who originally fled the current conflict to Kenya and managed to cross the borders to Ethiopia this week claimed Kenyan authorities have restricted both land and air travels for South Sudanese headed to Ethiopia.
Speaking exclusively to Sudan Tribune in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, two former South Sudan Government officials said they managed to cross borders to Ethiopia by bribing Kenyan brokers and security officials who allowed them through.
The bribes, they claimed, were mainly given to the smugglers on the Kenyan side, not Ethiopia.
They said a South Sudanese willing to travel to Ethiopia won’t find a visa from the Ethiopian embassy in Nairobi unless the individual produced a recommendation letter from the South Sudanese embassy in Nairobi.
They assumed that the Ethiopian embassy took the move through the influence of the Kenyan government, further accusing the latter of providing support to the government of Juba in the ongoing battle against SPLM in opposition rebels led by former vice president Riek Machar,.
These accusations could, however, not be independently verified.
When asked to comment on the matter, ambassador Dina mufti, the spokesperson for Ethiopia’s foreign affairs ministry told Sudan Tribune he would contact its envoy in Kenya to verify these allegations.
The strongholds of the rebels are across the Ethiopian-South Sudanese common border.
“Any South Sudanese coming to Ethiopia is suspected to join the rebels” said one of them who asked not to be named for safety reasons.
They accused Kenyan and South Sudan government of being behind the conspiracy to bloc South Sudanese from travelling to Ethiopia where tens and thousands of South Sudanese took refuge following the conflict that erupted in mid December and killed over 20,000 people.
The conflict has forced over 150,000 people flee to neighboring countries.
The individual further alleged that Kenya, a member of mediating regional bloc (IGAD) was providing military support to South Sudan Government.
“On 18 March, Kenya deployed 40 of its military vehicles to South Sudan Government through Ugandan border”, they alleged.
New round of talks between the two South Sudanese factions has resumed in Ethiopia however Uganda’s participation as an observer is being an obstacle to push the face-to-face talks from moving.
Rebel negotiators have warned they will pullout of the talks unless Uganda who is in direct combat against Machar forces along side government Army is removed from the IGAD led talks.
The rebels accuse Ugandan forces, Sudanese rebel group JEM of allegedly continuing to kill people in Upper Nile, Jonglei, and Unity states. They urged all foreign troops to immediately pull-out for the South Sudanese conflict to be resolved.