October 13, 2021 (JUBA) – South Sudan has set November 1 as the day on which members of the unified forces will be graduated from various training camps.
- The unified force of instructors pose for a group photo in Juba, October 5, 2019 (Xinhua)
The military spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said the exercise, expected to be the last leg in the process, will be preceded by dispatching a team of military experts to conduct screening of the forces in various training centers across the country.
He did, however, divulged further details on the number of forces expected to be graduated from various camps, though previous record shows about 53,000 forces drawn from stakeholders South Sudan People’s Defense Forces, the opposition forces under the command of the first vice president Riek Machar and forces representing the umbrella of the opposition alliance.
They are expected to graduate from various camps and will include members of the army, police, and national security, fire brigade and wildlife.
It remains unclear whether announcement would hold since several announcements have never materialized. The authorities have always attributed repeated delay to graduate the forces “lack of funds”.
Members of the civil society organizations and other political leaders attributed the cause to “lack of political will”, citing the amount of 100 million of dollars which government announced in 2019 to have given to members the National Transitional Committee. The forces have been at the training camps since 2019.
The Joint Defense Board (JDB), the body mandated to exercise command and control over the necessary unified forces, announced it has resolved to start the screening of forces at the training camps next week, paving way to graduation.
The decision of the board was arrived at a meeting attended by top commands of the various peace parties at the military headquarters in Bilpam, located north of capital Juba. The board announced that three joint screening teams will be formed and dispatched to the three regions of Bahr El Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile to start the screening process prior to graduation.
The official spokesperson of government forces confirmed the decision of the JDB, pointing to the necessity of the process before graduation takes place.
“The Joint Defense Board met on Monday and resolved that those forces will have to be screened first and once we are done, it would be followed by unification”, he said, adding, “I have repeatedly said this is the last leg of the entire process and I’m very sure it will take place by the first week of November.”
Gen Lul asked members of the public to exercise patience, saying certain things had caused the delays but which the authorities have now given priority so that graduation is carried out without further delay.
The formation of a unified army in South Sudan is a cornerstone of the 2018 peace agreement. The soldiers have been undergoing training since late 2019.