By William Madouk Garang
President Salva Kiir Mayardit has defended the deployment of South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) to DR Congo saying that South Sudan has also a role to play in bringing lasting peace in the East African region.
In his New Year message, Mayardit stated that sending SSPDF battalion to Democratic Republic of Congo doesn’t mean there are no challenges back at home, but a role each member state should play to bring peace in the region.
“I bid farewell to a consignment of 750 soldiers who are joining the East Africa Forces in the DR Congo. These troops are part of our regional contribution to the East African Community efforts to stabilize Congo,” Mayardit said.
“This contribution does not negate the fact that we have challenges at home, but South Sudan as a country must move forward by doing its parts among its peers,” he clarified.
Mr. President was likely reacting to criticisms from the members of the public who hammered the government for preparing a battalion of the army to be sent to DR Congo, citing the failure to tackle the constant violence in the country.
The citizens’ reaction came after the President on December 18, 2022; saw off over 700 soldiers who will be deployed in eastern DR Congo for regional peacekeeping mission.
Speaking on Eye Radio’s Dawn Show, some members of the public criticized the government over the decision to send soldiers to the DR Congo.
They said the national government should not prioritize regional duties over the ongoing conflict in some parts of the country.
“How would the government contribute its soldiers to go and help in DR Congo? Congolese are not more important than South Sudanese. Many South Sudanese are dying across the country. Even within Juba where the national government is, people are dying.”
“And the Congolese are going to be protected not to die and the South Sudanese will continue to die. Will all the other remaining groups go to Congo, or will they remain in South Sudan? The President or the government must check about this,” Eye radio quoted unnamed person.
Another person said: “Our problem is within, and we have even failed to address and strengthen the internal security. We can’t disarm the civilians or pay soldiers’ salaries because we have failed our national duty. But I have seen nothing to do with outside duties, South Sudan would take part and give something good.”
“There is a saying that says, put your house in order before you help your neighbor. The sending is not genuine because we have so many crises that need to be addressed like the force being sent abroad. So, why can’t we solve the problems of Malakal by deploying these forces there to prevent anything not to happen?” said one of the citizens.
There have been reports of insecurity in the Upper Nile and Pibor Administrative Area.
The SSPDF soldiers joining the East Africa regional task force comprise of military police, military intelligence, signal corps, engineering corps, and administration, logistics and infantry units – underwent four months of training in Juba.