South Sudan president integrates rival's officers into unified army command

Graduation of the joint forces should be completed within two months

South Sudan President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar meet at the State House in Juba.  AFP
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South Sudan's government announced on Tuesday the creation of a unified armed forces command, after President Salva Kiir ordered military officers loyal to his vice president, Riek Machar, to be officially integrated into a unified command of the army.

The move, reported by the state media, implements a key provision of the 2018 peace deal that ended five years of civil war.

Frequent outbreaks of violence over the past few years have raised fears of a return to full-blown conflict, as the two sides remained deadlocked over major issues such as ethnic divisions and the unification of their forces, with troops loyal to Mr Kiir and Mr Machar fighting against each other.

But last week, the president and his deputy signed an agreement to unify the command of the security forces, easing political tension in the African country.

The duo agreed to a 60-40 distribution in favour of Mr Kiir's side of leadership posts in the army, police and national security forces.

Mr Machar also submitted a list of officers to be absorbed into the security services.

The edicts “come into force on the date (April 12, 2022) of its signature by the President”, the national broadcaster SSBC said, after reading out a series of presidential decrees.

Under the terms of the deal signed on April 3, the graduation of the unified forces should be completed within two months.

Mr Machar's military spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel said the move would help stop the continuing ceasefire violations in different parts of the country.

“The SPLA-IO welcome the decision. It is really long awaited. We just hope that this will pave a way forward to the completion to the unification process,” Mr Paul Gabriel told Reuters.

The US, the UK and Norway, supporting South Sudan’s peace deal, said recently they were concerned that the new outbreak of fighting threatened to undermine the government’s unity.

Last month, the UN Security Council voted to extend its peacekeeping mission in South Sudan by another year.

The UN has repeatedly criticised South Sudan's leadership for its role in stoking violence and has accused the government of rights violations amounting to war crimes over deadly attacks in the country's south-west last year.

Updated: April 13, 2022, 6:47 AM
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