Finance ministry holds graduation of Unified Forces hostage

Stephen Wiw Bichiock, the Head of Secretariat of the National Transitional Committee addressing the 23rd R-JMEC plenary in Juba on Thursday, about the NTC activities (Photo: Philip Buda Ladu)

By Philip Buda Ladu

The National Transitional Committee (NTC) said it has planned to execute the graduation of the already trained and screened 53,000 first batch of the Necessary Unified Forces this month but that will only be made possible if the Ministry of Finance and Planning releases the budget for the graduation program.

Stephen Wiw Bichiock the Head of the NTC Secretariat disclosed to the Revitalized Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (R-JMEC) 23th plenary held on Thursday in juba, saying the NTC’s plan to graduate the forces this June.

The command responsible for the Unified forces was unified nearly two month back when the parties to the Agreement stroke a breakthrough deal on the ratio of the command structure among the peace parties mediated by Sudan as a peace guarantor to the 2018 R-ARCSS.

The drafted agreement on the sharing of the command structure and addressing the impasses that hindered the implementation of the transitional security arrangements which the parties signed called for the expedition of the graduation of the Unified forces within a two months’ time frame which seemly has elapsed.

The NTC works with the peace mechanisms to coordinate activities and also lobby for funds so that the mechanisms implement and execute their objectives. The NTC has been coordinating meeting with the principles to make sure that the command structure, unified and the forces graduated.

“The NTC Secretariat and Joint Transitional Security Committee (JTSC) were following the money for graduation from the ministry of finance so we are hoping this month that’s what we propose that the unified forces would be graduated but we still try to get money,” said Bichiock.   

The NTC has often complained of facing challenges to do with the issues of funding, saying they don’t have money to implement their activities, as they haven’t received money from the Ministry of Finance, for quite some time.

He said there is also lack of food and medicines for the forces in the cantonment sites and training centers.

Bichiock hinted that for them to move forward the Ministry of Finance should release funds so that the security mechanisms implement their activities, and the graduation of unified forces is expedited but before they graduate they ensure there is food in the training centers.

Meanwhile, Michael Makuei Lueth, the Minister of Information, Telecommunication, and Postal Services who is the Government official spokesperson told reporters during a Council of Minister’s press briefing last Friday that they will be forced to graduate the Unified Forces with sticks as soon as possible.

He was reacting to the recently renewed UN Security Council arms embargo imposed on South Sudan which the government had always protested as the major impediment to the graduation of the Necessary Unified Forces.

For his part, Major General, Charles Tai Gituai, the Interim Chairperson of the Revitalized Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (R-JMEC) in his key remarks said it’s imperative to note that there are cross-cutting challenges which have hampered the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement.

He stated that the problems included; delayed Unification of Forces, funding, military defections, trust deficit, insufficient political will, capacity gap, the cumulative effects of prolonged subnational conflicts, the Covid-19 pandemic, the dire humanitarian situation in the country caused by natural calamities such as floods.

Gen. Gituai underscored that if progress is to be expedited, the aforementioned challenges should be urgently and collectively addressed.

The R-JMEC Interim Chair said the R-ARCSS lays the foundation for a united peaceful and prosperous society based on justice, equality, respect for human rights and the rule of law.

However, he stressed that continuous delays in the implementation of the agreement have consequential effects, as witnessed in the recent incidents of military defections and the associated confrontations.

“There is also a growing public anxiety, frustration and despair on what happens when the transitional Period lapses in February 2023, without the completion of all tasks of the Agreement,” Gen. Gituai underlined.

“The critical focus at this time, therefore, should be to consolidate the peace dividends which have been achieved thus far by implementing the outstanding tasks of the R-ARCSS. Having outlined the tasks and the risks associated with inaction or delays, it is my expectation that the R-TGONU will update this meeting on its plan and strategy on the way forward,” Gen. Gituai concluded.  

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