JUBA – South Sudan’s main armed opposition group, SPLM-IO, has denied suggestion by government spokesman Michael Makuei Lueth that one of the impediments to the graduation of the unified forces is that the opposition groups who are signatories to the revitalized peace agreement have not organized their forces.
Over the weekend, information minister Michael Makuei Lueth said there are several issues that need to be resolved before graduation of the forces including, he said, the organization of opposition forces which he said have more commanders than soldiers.
Makuei who is a key player in the government side of the agreement said some of the opposition forces came to the training centers without their guns, something he has triggered questions as to if the opposition forces are in fact in training centers.
“The opposition forces were taken to training centres not organized. And as such, the number of officers is more than the number of NCOs [Non-commissioned officers] they need to be organized first because we know what the military formations are and in a military formation you have a squad you have a platoon up to the division up to all higher organs and we know who commands what,” Makuei stated over the weekend.
“But when you come up with a force comprised of so many officers without NCOs then where are the forces these officers are going to command?” Makuei asked, adding that “the issue of the organization of the opposition is a sole responsibility of the opposition and they have not done it up to now,” he added.
Speaking to Sudans Post in an exclusive interview on Tuesday, senior SPLM-IO member and close ally of First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar, Dut Majokdit, said the government claims are untrue saying the SPLM-IO is organized and has more forces than commanders.
“That one is not true,” he said of Michael Makuei’s statement. “The SPLM-IO and other opposition groups are organized and they went to be screened before they could be allowed into cantonment sites. There are many forces and a few commanders as come in any army formation.”
Makuei had also said one of the issues that was impeding the graduation of the forces is that the opposition groups wants organization of the army to start with the top levels of commands, something he said doesn’t exist anywhere.
In response, Majokdit said the agreement signed in 2018 by President Salva Kiir and then opposition leader Riek Machar provides for organization of the army command before the soldiers could graduate saying the opposition cannot handover their forces to the SSPDF command which he said is being dissolved ahead of the formation of the unified army.
“The agreement is very clear and Michael Makuei should go through the agreement again to inform himself. The agreement wants the command to be restructured before the forces could be put under the commands,” he said.
“We cannot put our forces under the SSPDF command and this is the problem that the government don’t even want to restructure the army command,” he added.