Over 1000 SSPDF ready for DR Congo battle

By Ephraim Modi Duku Sokiri

South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) have trained and approved more than one thousand soldiers ready to join the East African Community (EAC) Regional Forces for the peace keeping mission in the fragile eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Speaking to the media yesterday during the set off of three hundred soldiers ahead of the remaining battalion in Western Equatoria State, the Minister for Defense and Veteran Affairs Gen. Chol Thon Balok said the troops are expected to join the EAC regional mission in DRC.

“The current parade here is 300 men and women in uniform. This is the second group, the first group had left by land through Western Equatoria in a battalion,” said Minister Chol.

“The contribution of the SSPDF is taking off to Congo today, so I came here on behalf of the government, the Commander in Chief and the people of South Sudan today, for our sons and daughters to that important function,” he continued.

The minister further expressed his confidence about the status of the soldiers upon which they were trained to execute the mission based on its laws.

“I have no doubt at all that our men and women in uniform will perform well in that mission, they are well trained, they are well oriented,” he added.

Following the independence of South Sudan in 2021, the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF), formerly the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), is the national army of the Republic of South Sudan that’s undergoing training.

The SPLA was founded as a guerrilla movement against the government of Sudan in 1983 and was a key participant of the Second Sudanese Civil War, led by John Garang. After Gerang’s death in 2005, Salva Kiir was named the SPLA’s new Commander-in-Chief. As of 2010, the SPLA was divided into divisions of 10,000–14,000 soldiers.

The SSPDF have been registered for series of atrocities against humanity in the country, one of it is the shooting of three innocent youths in Kajokeji and others.

The World Human Rights report 2023 shows the UNMISS findings were consistent with Human Rights Watch research on attacks in Leer County which found similar patterns of abuses, including attacks against children, older people, and people with disabilities. Looting and destruction of food stocks, cattle, and humanitarian aid particularly exacerbated the dire food situation, leaving civilians at risk of starvation.

The Minister has retorted to reclaimed doubt of the operations of the SSPDF, a question that many may still ask on the involvement of the forces in the DRC peace mission.

“There are people who have misconception that SSPDF sometimes are not discipline, but I want to prove them today wrong that our forces are well trained and oriented,” minister Chol assured.

Meanwhile, the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Relations, Deng Dau Deng has alluded the commitment of the SSPDF forces in the regional peace mission in DRC.

“The objective of this force is to provide support to the headquarters whereby the Kenyan and Burundian components are based,” he said.

“Our bilateral relation as East African Community (EAC) is deepened by this operation and so today we want to inform the world that South Sudan is very much concerned about the regional peace.”

He also reiterated about the conduct of the forces while executing the mission.

Witnessing the sendoff of the force was also a representative from the Kenyan Embassy Grispas Obutu who as well noted key tales to the provision of the forces as a member state to the EAC.

“Today, we are here as a country and also as a neighbor to South Sudan to facilitate the movement of SSPDF that is going to the EAC regional force for peace keeping mission and we hope that the team will undertake their duties,” he told reporters at Juba International Airport. 

Whereas, there is no deliberation to the forces travelling on separate ways, however, there has been reports of scarcity of logistic support that hold behind the stuck forces in Western Equatoria State.

The EAC is deploying forces to one of its seven member states for the first time since its founding in 1999 in what could be seen as a test of its ability to respond to violence in the region and stabilize the country.

For decades, eastern DRC region has been swimming in series of insecurity and violence stemming from complex mix of local and regional conflicts.

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