By Kiden Stela Mandela
South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) said the arms embargo imposed by the United Nation Security Council has delayed the graduation of the unified forces as they were unable to buy ammunition for the forces. The training of the unified forces commenced early this year, but their graduation was delayed several times due to financial constraints. The forces are required by the 2018 revitalized peace agreement to form the first professional national army which will consist of 83,000 soldiers drawn from the rival South Sudan parties and the SSPDF.
Maj. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang, the SSPDF’s spokesperson told No.1 Citizen Daily Newspaper on Thursday 8th October 2020, that the U.S arms embargo was a major setback in the reunification and graduation of the forces. The U.N. Security Council approved a resolution in May this year extending a year arms embargo on South Sudan and a travel ban and financial sanctions for targeted individuals. The arms embargo would run until May next year. “The biggest problems we have is lack of resources, the necessary financial resources needed for their graduation to be facilitated and the other major issue that we are also experiencing is that we do not have ability to give them arms, you know once you are a solider the best thing that you get is the right tool, fire arms is needed,” Maj Gen. Lul said. “We are not able to arm them because the country is under sanctions and the government is unable to purchase arms so that we give them to work fully. As forces, this is the biggest challenge as for now we cannot have soldiers expecting them to provide security without fire arms,” he added.
Maj Gen. Lul stressed that the government was also facing some difficulties generally caused by the global pandemic of COVID-19 that has affected the oil production. He said oil was subjected to number of factors including the drop in oil prices, capacity to produce maximum barrels of oil per day as some oil fields had been affected by the war and some facilities got damaged. He said it requires financial support that is when they would be in position to graduate the unified forces.
However, Col. Lam Paul Gabriel, Deputy Military Spokesperson of Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition SPLM/A-IO disagreed saying the important thing was to have unified forces under one command whether there were arms or not it would be discussed later. “Issue of the graduation is causing a lot of panic. We are really focused no matter what it will take us, we are standing firm and we are not ready to go back to war,” he said. “The other technical issue that delays the graduation of this forces is that command unified structures that was formed beginning from national security, military and had been taken for approval to the President,” Col. Lam added. He stressed that what seems to be relaxed behind was the President to approve the concept of command unified structure to make sure that the command moves forward.
Col. Lam said the international communities would understand that they were moving forward then later they would be able to get guns as long as they were in the right direction. He argued that once command unified structure is approved by the President, they would immediately have unified forces that include the national security, military and the organized forces. “So that when they come out, they are under one command not any how” Col. Lam remarked.
He stressed that once the forces graduate they will be under one command, but said until now the command council has not been given the necessary help beginning from the Chief of Defense Forces to the military. One of the female officers from Gorom training center who came to Juba to buy some food items said, “We are suffering from hunger, sickness, and even no clean drinking water some time some of us have been attacked by unknown gunmen soon we will disappear from here because since our leaders are not minding about us everything is hard” she said. She said if one month elapses without them being graduated, some of them were likely to quit the Centre.