By William Madouk Garang
At least 1,700 unified forces cadets representing all units of Necessary Unified Forces – first batch in Greater Equatoria region are passing out the long-awaited graduation today, army official said.
Bilpham confirmed that more than 10,000 forces in greater Equatoria are set to graduate Tuesday – August 30th, from the training centers at Central Equatoria State to be held at Dr. John Garang Mausoleum.
On Sunday, the topmost government and military officials inspected Dr. Garang Mausoleum to acquaint themselves with preparation put in place for the graduation of unified forces.
Speaking to No.1 Citizen Daily Newspaper, South Sudan Peoples’ Defense Forces (SSPDF) Spokesman Maj. Gen. Lul Ruai said officers ferried to Juba for graduation parade are 1700, a symbolic of all units.
“We are expecting to graduate 1,623; in five training centers that is Gorom, Rumbur, Lologo, Agut-Makur and Rejaf – a total number of those forces who will be graduated,” Gen. Ruai said.
“Then here, they brought a total of 1,700 [officers] – they will be passing out graduation tomorrow representing each unit – but I don’t have the breakdown of each unit,” he added.
Gen. Lul said Joint Defense Board will come up with plan of the deployment of these forces believed to be on the prevailing of security condition in the Country.
He further said the forces in the other two regions of Upper Nile and Bahr el Ghazal will be graduated later because the army is now facing logistical problems driven by flood affecting delivery of food and uniform.
“I will not give definite timeframe [for graduation] because we are having logistical issues like in greater Equatoria the forces at the Owinykibul will have to be relocated to Torit for graduation”.
“Then the Morota training center will have to be relocated to Panyier because there is no forces of SPLA-IO these forces need to be mix together so they relocated to Panyier.”
“For Upper Nile, there are three areas that are inaccessible because of the floods Tufugia and Lolu, its forces will be relocated to Malakal, then Kaljak will be relocated to Bentiu and any relocation requires approval from JDB and the presidency,” he said.
President Salva Kiir had extended an invitation letter to all East African community and leaders of IGAD bloc, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Djibouti to grace the occasion.
Heads of African states expected in Juba are; Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed, Ugandan President Yoweri K. Museveni, the Head of Sudan Transitional Sovereign Council among others.
The Minister of Information and government’s Spokesperson, Michael Makuei Lueth told No.1 Citizen Daily Newspaper that, several heads of East African and IGAD region were invited but did not confirm their attendance.
“Well, the invitation was extended to head of states of East African communities and to head of states of IGAD. We have invited but so far we have not yet received the final response from them as to who will be attending and who will not be attending,” Makuei said.
Makuei said Tuesday was picked to be public holiday because all people are expected to be attending the graduation of Unified forces and definitely they won’t be able to do their jobs.
“This is a very important day, it’s a real implementation of chapter two of the revitalized peace agreement, and so it’s an important day that needs to be marked by people of South Sudan,” he continued.
Minister Makuei also urged the citizens to turn up in large numbers to observe the historic event and implementation of security arrangement under chapter two of the revitalized Agreement.
“We expect all to attend because this is an important day in the history of South Sudan so that we all celebrate”.
“This marks the beginning and that will be followed by the second phase of the forces after graduation. We are hopeful and optimistic that this second batch will be graduated before the end of the transitional period,” Makuei assured.
Meanwhile efforts to reach Minister of Presidential Affairs, Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin for comment on whether they have received any confirmation from the invited EAC and IGAD heads of States who will be attending the event were not successful by press time.