National, News, Politics

Peace principals at loggerheads over army command

President Salva Kiir Mayardit [R] and the First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar [L]/Courtesy photo

By Philip Buda Ladu

President Salva Kiir and the First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar are portraying signs of strong disagreement over the unification of the Command of the yet to be graduated unified forces as the two key principals to the 2018 R-ARCSS differed on the ratio of forces’ Command structure.

On Friday, President Salva Kiir issued a Presidential Decree over the State-run SSBC, on the unification of the command of unified forces relinquishing three positions in the Army Command Structure and two positions in the National Police Service Command to the SPLM/A-IO and South Sudan Opposition Alliance SSOA.

The decree apportioned the Deputy Chief of Defense Forces (CDF) to the SPLA-IO, the Assistant CDF for Moral Orientation to SPLA-IO, the Assistant CDF of Inspection to SPLA-IO, Deputy Inspector General of Police (IGP) to SPLA-IO and one Assistant IGP position given to SSOA.

The President in his decree also directed the CDF of the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces and the Inspector General of Police to immediately implement the order.

However, Dr. Riek Machar’s SPLM/A-IO political camp rejected the decree barely one day upon its issuance, calling it a unilateral decision from President Kiir to reconstitute the command without any consensus being reached by the principals to the agreement amidst ongoing negotiations.

Maj. Gen. Charles Tai Gituai, the Interim Chairperson of R-JMEC underscored in his remarks at the 22nd R-JMEC plenary on Thursday that the matter of the screening, training and redeployment of the Necessary Unified Forces for phase one including the unified command and ratio of forces is being dealt with at the IGAD level with R-TGoNU.

Despite the screening of over 50,000 unified forces being complete, ready for graduation and redeployment, the peace parties are still dragging feet on agreeing to the unification of the command structure of the forces, a contentious issue delaying the graduation of the unified forces.

The SPLM/A-IO denounced the Presidential Decree on Saturday in a press statement signed by its Chairman and Commander in Chief of the SPLM/A-IO Dr. Riek Machar on behalf of the party’s Political Bureau as seen by No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper.

The SPLM/A-IO political bureau stressed that the unilateral decision by President Kiir is a violation of the R-ARCSS and it is a clear rejection of an ongoing mediation process by the Republic of Sudan and IGAD Chair.

The SPLM/A-IO condemned and rejected what they termed as the ‘unilateral decision’ adding that it is committed to the ongoing mediation to resolve the matter. It further reiterated its commitment to the full implementation of the agreement in letter and spirit while calling for IGAD’s intervention on the outstanding matters.

Dr. Machar’s political camp argued that all the parties agreed in a workshop in Khartoum in September 2018 that the size and composition of the forces shall be based on the ratio of 50 percent for the Incumbent TGoNU and 50 percent for the Opposition.

SPLM/A-IO noted that, following the Khartoum workshop IGAD and R-JMEC convened two subsequent workshops of the Joint Security Mechanisms in Juba on 10th and 11th May 2019 and 9th September 2019 respectively which reaffirmed the 50:50 ratio.

The IO accused President Kiir of defaulting those agreements which prompted the peace guarantors to intervene to solve the matter, as dialogue is still ongoing and the parties have not yet agreed on the unification of Command.

Puok Both Baluang, the Director of Information and Public Relations who doubles as Dr. Riek Machar’s Acting Press Secretary told No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper that the Chairman and Commander in Chief of the SPLM/A-IO was never consulted by President Salva Kiir in his decision on the unification of the command.

“The process is still ongoing and the Sudan mediation is still leading the process of the mediation between the parties so that we can reach an agreement between the parties on how we share the command of this unified forces but the matter still remains unresolved,” asserted Mr. Baluang.

He said the security situation in South Sudan is deteriorating and urging for intervention from the guarantors of the agreement including IGAD, African Union, Troika and the International Community at large, “it needs their efforts at the moment because the SPLM-IG has waged war against the SPLM/A-IO”.

Meanwhile, repeated efforts by No.1 Citizen Daily Newspaper to reach the Office of the President for comment on the alleged unilateral decree were futile by press time, as repeated phone calls to President Kiir’s Press Secretary, Ateny Wek Ateny for response went unanswered.

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