South Sudan to Graduate Unified Forces in May

By Deng Machol

Juba – The transitional government of South Sudan government has said it is planning to graduate the unified forces before 31 May in an attempt to escape further arms embargo sanctions.

The plan comes amidst new conditions set by the UN Security Council (UNSC), demanding that the Juba government should complete implementation of key provisions in the 2018 peace deal before the end of May.

The UNSC says the security sector transformation, completion of transitional security arrangement, redeployment plans of the necessary unified forces, and graduation of unified forces must be accomplished before the end of this May.

The Security Council first slapped an arms embargo on South Sudan in 2018 which has since been renewed several times, most recently until 31 May 2021.

South Sudan has less than a month to convince the UN Security Council to lift the arms embargo and sanctions imposed on the country.

The restrictions are expected to be extended or lifted on the 31st of May 2021 depending on whether South Sudan meets certain set benchmarks on the implementation of the peace deal.

These include progress on political and governance issues and security sector reforms.

According to the Security Council, the lack of a security strategy, resources and funding has impeded progress in the implementation of the transitional security arrangements, including the proper functioning of the cantonment and training sites.

In the assessment last month, the council said the formation, training, and redeployment of the necessary unified forces, in accordance with chapter 2 of the Revitalized Agreement, has yet to move forward.

It said recent civilian disarmament campaigns have been unsuccessful and resulted in violence, notably in Warrap State in August 2020.

It stated the parties to the conflict had continued to recruit new troops, contrary to the provisions of the Revitalized Agreement.

The Council also cited defections and changes of allegiance among the parties, saying they “continue to undermine the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement and the permanent ceasefire.”

Juba says it is currently putting down strategies to ensure successful graduation of the unified forces take place this month and that the unification of command of the various forces from parties that signed the peace deal is also ongoing.

The Country’s Minister of Defense and Veterans Affairs, Angelina Teny said the government have no option because the United Nations has preconditioned the lifting of the arms embargo on the implementation of security reforms stipulated in the revitalized peace agreement.

“We cannot afford to not graduate these forces. I want to emphasize that it is the agreement itself. It is the future of the stability of this country. And it is what will give us lasting peace in this country. And we see to it that these forces are going to graduate before May 31st,” Angelina told the journalists in Juba.

Minister Angelina says the UN Security Council has done an assessment and extensive consultations to see whether South Sudan meets the criteria.

Of recently, the former UN Mission in South Sudan chief said despite the formation of transitional government in February 2020, the implementation process remains fragile.

This year, President Salva Kiir and his five deputies had agreed to graduate the first batch of the unified forces despite lack of sufficient equipment. 

According to the 2018 revitalized peace deal, South Sudan is supposed to train and graduate 83,000 personnel to take charge of security during the transitional period but the graduation and unification of the army has been delayed with Juba government officials citing the existing arms embargo imposed by the United Nations and the United States as being the obstacles and resulted to lack of arms for graduating the unified army comprising of government and opposition forces.

The arms embargo empowers all UN Member States to prevent arms and related equipment of all types – including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and any spare parts – from entering South Sudan.

The soldiers have been undergoing training in the cantonments across South Sudan since late 2019 

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