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The project to form a unified army in southern Sudan is still stalled

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — In Mabel camp in northwestern South Sudan, hundreds of demobilized government soldiers and rebels carry fake wooden machine guns singing together as part of exercises aimed at forming a unified national army under the recent peace agreement in this country.

“Victory for southern Sudan!” While the women launching hospitable to encourage them.

Everyone started singing and dancing, causing a cloud of dust, hitting the ground with their feet.

But far from this offer, optimism remains weak.

This dispersed group is not yet ready to protect southern Sudan a few days ago from an essential stage in the fragile peace process. Under an agreement aimed at stopping the bloodshed that has been going on for six years, it is assumed that these opponents of the past will be gathered in camps to undergo new training and get out of them to form a new army in the country.

Most of them have spent the last six years fighting a civil war that has killed 380,000 people with millions of displaced people and refugees, while devastation has occurred in large parts of the country.

“All we need is to unite our forces … and peace is waiting for us,” Edison Arkengelo Musa, an opposition fighter, told AFP at the training site in Maple, 90 km from Wau in the northwest.

However, they are totally unprepared to take over the security mission in the delicate stage that South Sudan is going through, with great pressure exerted on an existing armistice between the rival leaders.

Formal training has not started yet, while tens of millions of dollars are not needed, which precludes the possibility that these forces will be ready in time.

Tens of thousands of soldiers are crowded into camps without adequate food and water.

Delegates to the United Nations said this month that conditions in the camps were “abhorrent,” indicating that women in the neighborhood had been raped.

Delays and divisions

President Salva Kiir and his former vice president, Rick Machar, are being dragged out by the two main parties to the formation of a national unity government by February 22, despite strong international pressure.

Merging fighters of both sides into one force away from political and ethnic affiliations is a vital clause in the peace agreement signed in 2018.

And two years before that, another agreement collapsed when Machar’s forces and the Republican Guard were confronted in the center of the capital.

But this time, the two opposing sides agreed to form an army of 83,000 elements that would ensure the stability of the country and transcend divisions.

With 18 months into that, there are only 36,000 fighters in training camps, according to Agustino Ngorog, head of the committee set up by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to evaluate the implementation of the peace agreement.

He explained in a document published on Tuesday that “the selection and training of soldiers has not started yet.”

In Mabel, during a visit by an AFP team a short time ago, the soldiers participated in awareness sessions on rape, child protection and war crimes provided by a United Nations human rights expert.

The conditions of living in this area seemed very difficult, as there are no toilets where the soldiers are forced to spend their needs on the neighboring trees. Women and children are staying close to the camp.

“Sometimes there is no food at all,” explained Christo Gordon, a rebel rank, as he shared a plate of corn and beans with others.

Gunfighter Arcengelo says the absence of food increases the risk of neighboring towns being looted by the fighters. “We need help,” said Christo.

– “Peace will come.”

Many of these men have no uniforms or shoes. Some wear soccer shirts. A former fighter carries a fake machine gun on one shoulder, and her infant child is on the other.

A government soldier whispered as he passed “They gave us money to buy shoes” while he owned a suit but he was only wearing sandals.

Of the $ 100 million promised by the Salva Kiir government for this program, only $ 40 million was confirmed, according to IGAD delegate to southern Sudan, Ismail Wise.

“The question arises as to whether the government is determined to implement its obligations,” said Andrew Champan, one of the members of an assessment mission sent by the United Nations Human Rights Council shortly after he enriched him with small-batch money, insufficient food rations and weapons storage problems.

Some analysts believe that Salva Kiir is reluctant to press ahead with the unification project, as this would weaken his authority over the army.

And waiting, the enemies of the past are living side by side in the camps while they were confronting before. For example, Christo shares a hut with a government soldier.

“This is better than fighting. I think the conflict is over and peace will be resolved,” he said.


This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.

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