JUBA – A media official for South Sudan’s main armed opposition group, SPLA-IO, is attributing delays of graduation of the necessary unified forces to the lates coronavirus lockdown imposed by the government earlier this month.
Colonel Lam Paul Gabriel, the deputy spokesman of the SPLA-IO and press secretary for defense minister, Angelina Teny, said the plans to have the unified forces graduated by end of February are being disrupted by the latest COVID-19 lockdown.
“In February Presidency held a meeting, and it was agreed that the graduation of the forces will happen as soon as possible, but due to recent declaration of COVID-19 partial lockdown which prohibited social gathering like meetings, and political activities. There is no way that the graduation will take place,” Lam said on Thursday.
The high-ranking opposition officer who is also a member of the Joint Defense Board further said the forces will not be graduated until the COVID-19 lockdown is lifted.
“I don’t believe if the graduation will take palace unless the COVID-19 partial lock down is lifted in the country,” he added.
The leadership of National Transitional Committee, a body tasked to oversee the implementation of the 2018 revitalized peace agreement stated recently that the graduation of unified forces was to commence before the end of February, something that is now unlikely to be fulfilled.
“The graduation of the unified forces was to take place before the end of January according to the office of National Transitional Court, but due to some challenges such as lack of resources, and soldiers abandoning the training centers due to lack of food and medicines, could not make the graduation to take place” he said.
For his part, the acting spokesperson of South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) Brigadier General Santo Domic said they are just waiting to be told to deploy the unified forces once they are passed out.
“We don’t have any information. We are just waiting to be told when are we supposed to organize the forces for deployment but up to now there is no mention of that. So we are just waiting for what is going to happen,” Domic said.
The Reconstituted Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU) formed in February last year is yet to complete the training, and graduation of the unified forces that are to take charge of the security during the three-year transitional period ending 2022 when South Sudan is expected to hold elections.
The parties in the coalition government are yet to also established the national legislature, states, and the local governments as well as Hybrid Court and other transitional justice institutions provided for in the revitalized peace agreement.