Changes in S. Sudan's army to delay graduation of unified forces

Thursday April 15 2021
South Sudan soldiers.

South Sudan People's Defence Forces (SSPDF) personnel take part in a drill on April 26, 2019. PHOTO | AFP



Recent changes that President Salva Kiir made within the top leadership of South Sudan’s army have disrupted efforts to graduate the first batch of the unified forces.

Lam Paul Gabriel, Ministry of Defence spokesperson, said the sacking of Chief of Defense Forces (CDF) Johnson Juma Okot last week and replacing him with Santino Deng Wol has put brakes on the implementation of the security arrangement.

“The pending tasks on the security arrangement are paused due to the new SSPDF deployments and are expected to be completed by the new army chief,” Mr Gabriel said in Juba on Wednesday.

He, however, did not divulge details on whether training of soldiers has been halted.

“As far as security is concerned we just received new deployments. The chairperson [Okot] was relieved and now we have a new chief of defense forces who is going to become the chairperson of the Joint Defense Board (JDB),” Mr Gabriel said.


“We are waiting for him [Wol] to take his office then he has to call the first meeting to be briefed on what has happened since the start of implementation of the security arrangement until now. From here the CDF will then come up with a decision on what to do next.”

Mr Gabriel added that the number of the first batch of soldiers to graduate to form the unified forces is still unknown as some soldiers deserted the training centres, mainly because of lack of food, safe water and medicines.

Under the 2018 revitalised peace deal, JDB is charged with overseeing security reforms in the country.

The peace deal also calls for the establishment of unified forces made up of 83,000 soldiers to take charge of security during the three-year transitional period.

Meanwhile, President Kiir also sacked Reuben Malek, the deputy minister of Defence and Veterans Affairs, replacing him with Chol Thon Balok.

He also sent home the director-general of external intelligence, Thomas Duoth, replacing him with Simon Yien Makuac.