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South Sudan’s 2018 Force Unification ‘Sorely Late’

South Sudan’s programme to unify forces from various militia is sorely late, an assessment by the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) shows.

Maj-Gen Charles Tai Gituai told a meeting in Juba on Thursday the delays could eat into other plans including a transition to a new government through elections scheduled for next year.

“For almost four years, troops have languished in the cantonment sites and training centres with very little support, and while the upper command echelon of the NUF is unified, the mid and lower levels are not,” he said.

“Without the completion of unification of forces and bringing these forces under one commander-in-chief, achieving a secure environment for the holding of elections will be a huge challenge. There is no justification for the further delay of this process, or the defection of forces from one party to the other, which continues to be reported.”

Unification of forces was part of the pillars identified under the 2018 peace agreement between the government of President Salva Kiir and armed factions that turned against him since 2013. The idea was to form one national professional army and reduce chances for future armed conflict.

But the agreement itself, formally known as the Revitalised Agreement for the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan had always run into other challenges that forced the parties to extend the transition to next year.

On Thursday, RJMEC said there is a recurrent funds shortage which has caused delays. But there has been also some form of political lethargy as parties size up one another on whether to go ahead with elections.

“If this lack of support continues, then the transitional security arrangements, especially the much-delayed unification of forces, will further slowdown,” he said.

In fact, RJMEC meeting in Juba this week did not reach quorum and hence the findings of the session will not be considered a decision of its plenary.

As such, the meeting on Thursday could only hear statements and detailed briefings by different Agreement institutions and mechanisms on the status of the implementation. A new meeting for the 33rd RJMEC Plenary is rescheduled for December 7.

South Sudan’s 2018 agreement had stopped a violent surge and even as parties struggle to implement it, the Commission says that deal has slowed down the dangerous slide the country had taken.

So far, the country has appointed members to reconstitute the Political Parties Council, the National Constitutional Review Commission and the National Elections Commission, which is considered crucial step for transition. But they will need political will.

“Their effective functioning will pave the way towards the widening of civic and political space, the completion of the permanent constitution, as well as the timely conduct of elections,” Gituai said.

“Focus should now shift to operationalisation and adequate resourcing to ensure delivery of their mandates.”

Source: The East African