Kiir is dissatisfied with numerous senior officers and commanders in armed opposition groups, delayed unification to prune and downsize the ranks – Source
President Kiir, according to a security source who requested anonymity, is unhappy with a large number of senior officers and commanders in armed opposition factions, particularly Dr. Machar’s SPLA-IO, and that some of them are civilians who have just been promoted to high military positions.
As shown in a Radio Tamazuj report obtained by NCMP, President Kiir intends to trim and reduce these positions, thus delaying the armed forces’ unification.
With this development, the unification of the government and opposition armed forces into a national army appears to have hit another snag, following President Salva Kiir’s announcement last week that the government would soon graduate 53,000 soldiers and the National Transitional Committee’s (NTC) Tut Gatluak’s confirmation that the unified forces would graduate following the recent Islamic Eid al-Adha holiday.
“We have ordered all relevant security committees to inspect all training centres in accordance with the president’s directives,” NTC chairman Tut Gatluak was quoted as saying in a statement. “We can promise you that after Eid al-Adha, we will begin graduating all troops in training centres.”
According to the same source, Gen. Lul Ruai said that there had been no progress on graduating or uniting troops since SPLM/A-IO commander Dr. Riek Machar had requested time to reorganize his forces.
“Nothing has changed. At the moment, the First Vice President requested one week to reorganize his (SPLA-IO) troops from the President. As a result, I am unaware of how far he has progressed in reorganizing his troops, particularly in terms of rank reductions. Nothing is novel,” Gen. Ruai said.
For his part, SPLA-IO spokesperson Col. Lam Paul Gabriel said he could not comment on the troops’ graduation but that the present focus is command unity.
“At the present, I am unable to comment on force graduation since the priority is command unification. They must bring together the leadership of all forces between the government and opposition, beginning with the military, police, prison service, and national security service,” Col. Lam said.
“All of these processes should be completed by the Joint Defense Board (JDB), and their recommendations should be submitted to the president’s office and his deputies. Therefore, if there is to be graduation or any reunion procedure, the senior leadership will announce it.”
When reminded that his supervisor, Defense Minister Angelina Teny, earlier this year committed to graduating the troops by May 31, Col. Lam said that the defence minister does not make the ultimate decision on the matter.
“If the minister issues a directive to the JDB, they will carry out their responsibilities and submit a revised timetable, after which the minister will announce any decision based on their recommendations. This is what prompted the minister to announce that the graduation would take place prior to May 31. As we are all aware, the minister is not the ultimate arbiter in this case. The president must give the go-ahead for this to occur,” Col. Lam said.
Col Lam said, when asked about the status of troops stationed in training centres and cantonments, “their circumstances are not ideal.” Forces stationed at training centres and cantonment locations continue to suffer from a shortage of food, and even when food is available, it is insufficient. Additionally, they need medications, and now that the rainy season has arrived, some of them may require shelter. They are in pain. All of these reports have been submitted to the NTC, which is the sole organisation with the authority to rule on this.”
Gen. Simon Gatwech Dual, the former SPLA-IO Chief of General Staff, seems to have put a wrench in Dr. Machar’s calculations as well by refusing to resign.
Gen. Gatwech, who seems to be leading a section of the SPLA-IO, has previously emphasised the need of properly implementing the peace deal, particularly the security arrangements. He has repeatedly asked for the training and unity of troops as required in the peace accord during the past year.
South Sudan is required by the September 2018 peace agreement to train and graduate 83,000 people to assume security responsibilities during the current transitional phase.
Previously, the unity government established in February 2020 claimed budgetary limitations as a reason for delaying the graduation of united troops.
South Sudan’s peace accord is predicated on the establishment of an united army.