By Deng Machol
Juba – South Sudan peace monitoring body is calling on the revitalized government of national unity to avail necessary resources for immediate graduation of unified forces amid soldiers flee training centers.
Peace monitors said soldiers are abandoning cantonment and training sites due to lack of food and medicines that could affect the planned graduation of the first batch of unified forces before the May 31 deadline.
Charles Tai Gituai, Interim Chairperson of the Joint Monitoring Evaluation Commission (JMEC) said that the soldiers, mostly former rebel fighters were fleeing due to worsening living conditions in these training centers.
“No graduation and redeployment for Phase One of the Necessary Unified Forces has taken place. Cantonment sites and training centres continue to be abandoned due to a chronic lack of food, medicines, shelter facilities and hygiene items for women,” said Gituai.
“The conditions in both cantonment sites and training centers continue to deteriorate and can only get worse with the onset of the rainy season. Unfortunately, no funding has been provided to the security mechanisms since my last report,” Gituai told journalists in Juba.He said it was high time for security tasks stipulated in the peace accord to be fully implemented now.
“We urge the unity government to adequately fund the transitional security arrangement to expedite and complete the unification of forces,” said Gituai.
Gituai was speaking at the 17th plenary of the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission in Juba on May 20.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) had recently said that the security sector transformation, completion of transitional security arrangement, redeployment plans of the unified forces and graduation of the unified forces must be accomplished before the end of May 2021.
In response, Angelina Teny, Minister of Defense and Veterans Affairs in April announced plans to graduate the first batch of the unified forces before the end of May.
Under the 2018 revitalized peace deal, South Sudan is supposed to train and graduate 83,000 personnel to take charge of security during the ongoing transitional period across the country.
These troops will make up the police, army, intelligence, and prison services.
They were supposed to be graduated before the end of the Pre-transitional period which ended in February last year but it never materialized.
However, the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU) formed in February 2020, had in the past cited financial constraints for the delay in the graduation of unified forces.
According to the 2018 peace deal, the unified forces composed of oppositions and government armies.
In 2020, the government pledged more than $1.4 million to fund the implementation pending tasks but it only deposited $400,000 into the National Pre-Transitional Committee account.
According to the R – JMEC Chief, the government has failed to fund the security mechanism.
Despite that, Gituai also commended the parties for reaching a deal on the ratio of the unified command structure necessary for overseeing the graduation of these forces, adding it now remains for the parties to appoint nominees, in particular regarding the key posts at the highest levels of the defense and security services.
He further decried the delay by transitional government in availing funds to the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) commission to do its work aimed at downsizing the army.
Gituai expressed optimism over the recent establishment of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA) on May 10, adding that the parties move forward to reconstitute the Council of States and the state legislative assemblies.
“This creates the momentum which can accelerate progress in the implementation of the revitalised Peace Agreement,” said Gituai, adding the reconstituted TNLA can ratify some important legislation that has been held up, such as the amended security bills.