JUBA – South Sudan army said it was not ready for the training of the VIP protection unit deepening the confusion surrounding the implementation of the peace deal, with only three weeks shy the February 22 deadline.
Warring parties, signatory to the 2018 revitalized peace deal agreed during protracted negotiations in June 2019, to gather and train a 3,000-strong Very Important Persons’ (VIP) protection unit conscripted from both government and rebel groups.
The process of training this unity is part of a plan to gather all fighters into military camps with a view to forming an 83,000-strong unified army as provided in the peace deal which has stalled over numerous setbacks.
Officials now say that the process has been delayed by lack of cooperation among parties and inadequate logistical support.
South Sudan military spokesperson Lul Ruai Koang that opposition forces for example are yet to arrive in a training center in Southern Yei region. He said the training centers lack basic equipment like tents, food and clean drinking water.
“If a soldier falls sick, we cannot transfer him to the nearest hospital because there are no vehicles. Also, we don’t have enough military uniforms for forces in the camps, especially for the IO [SPLA-IO] and SSOA [South Sudan Opposition Alliance] forces,” he explained.
Main opposition SPLA-IO spokesperson Lam Paul Gabriel confirmed the delay of their forces, citing logistical reasons. He said there was no budget allocated for the transportation of rebel troops.
The head of IGAD-led Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) Augostino Njoroge told reporters in Juba that the commission was alarmed by the delay in screening urged to start the screening process which is essential for the selection of troops before military training.
“I am concerned that the screening of forces has not started yet, even though the screening teams are reported to be ready to begin,” Njoroge said.
He pointed out that no training can take place before the screening, and “the more it is delayed, the more the time that will be lost in beginning the training of the Necessary Unified Forces (NUF)”.
Njoroge has asked the Joint Defence Board (JDB) to ensure that the screening, selection and training of forces “starts immediately in consultation with the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission.”
The slow pace of the implementation of the security arrangements triggered the extension of the pre-transitional period twice for six months first and 100 days for the second time, which ends on February 2019.
The issue of security arrangement has been one of the impeding factors in the process of forming a joint government with opposition citing fear for their own security while in Juba.
The SPLM-IO leadership has thus asked for the deployment of a neutral United Nations protection force of up to 4,000 soldiers to help buffer up the security arrangement as the country mobilizes resources for a joint force.
The head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan said last week that they have the capacity to provide additional security.
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