By Bida Elly David
Transitional Government of National Unity has finally commenced the long-awaited deployment of the Necessary Unified Forces.
The first battalion of 750 soldiers has on Wednesday, been dispatched to Malakal in Upper Nile State.
In August of last year, the government graduated at least 52,000 forces as the first batch of unified forces.
However, the deployment was delayed until yesterday when the first battalion was finally flagged off to the designated work location.
The deployment of the first batch of combatants began with forces from Gorom Training Center in Central Equatoria state, on the outskirts of the capital, Juba.
Addressing the soldiers yesterday, the chairperson of the National Transitional Committee (NTC), Tut Gatlauk Manimme apologized for the delayed deployment.
The National Transitional Committee (NTC) is a body mandated to oversee the implementation of the agreement.
He said all the necessary delays were due to a lack of finances triggered by the country’s economic recession.
He acknowledged that the deployment would have happened earlier than now, but the government embarked much to brainstorm on ways to stabilize the country’s economy.
“It is now one year after the graduation of the first phase of the United Forces; it has not been easy to reach this point since we all know the economic situation the country faces,” Tut said.
“It was not easy for us to accomplish logistics for deployment because the forces need food and we don’t have airports, good roads, or industries to access,” he added.
Mr. Tut stated that the NTC, in their policy, introduced an inter-state deployment scheme as forces from areas of their origin shall be tasked to serve in other states.
He noted that the exercise is aimed at promoting peace among South Sudanese and eliminating tribalism, which is why forces in Equatoria are deployed to Malakal and vice versa.
The NTC chair called on the soldiers to consider civil disarmament as a priority of their assignment in Malakal.
“You must ensure that civilians don’t carry guns in their arms; on the border, any foreign civil entry into our territory should be watched for our safety,” he echoed.
Tut also urged the forces to ensure protection of the Nile from threats, adding that the Nile serves as a natural commercial area for economic growth.
“We need our citizens to be in peace, as you consider the constitution; the Nile is in your hands to maintain. Any robbery in the Nile must be handled,” he said.
However, Tut failed to clarify the commencement of phase two of the graduation of unified forces, saying that it would soon be communicated.
Gen. Santino Deng Wol, the chief of defense forces (CDF) of the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces, said the deployed battalion, upon arrival, shall be under the supervision of the Malakal Division Two ground forces.
He called on the forces to distance themselves from political affairs and maintain military discipline as a pillar.
Gen. Santino warned the forces against tribalism, noting that the national army is not a scope of favoritism but for the nation.
“You are not tribal soldiers; no one among you should be influenced by political elements based on ethnic background; we all need freedom for civilians,” he told the soldiers.
Santino further urged the forces to be exemplary to civilians by defending them during moments of terror.
He also urged them to avoid looting civilian properties or getting involved in crimes that would land them in trouble with their administrations.
General Duop Lam, the co-chair of the Joint Defense Board (JDB) and deputy CDF, said the deployment of the force has been an event that South Sudanese have been longing for.
Lam adopted the role of the army to the protection of national integrity, the safety of civilians, and territorial boundaries.
“You should not temper yourselves to annex yourselves to politics or political parties. You are an independent body away from SPLM, SPLM-IO, SSOA, and others,” he cautioned the forces.
He added that the deployment of the forces should be a candle that ends the bloodshed in the country.
“Our country last time divided through our internal fights, and since you are a national army in the name of SSPDF, avoid being deceived by any element with a different agenda,” Lam warned.
He called on the unified forces to abide by their code of ethics to reach a targeted goal.
“We need to respect ourselves; our mandate is to control our border with other countries to avoid dangerous intervention; if we are divided, we will not reach our goals,” he echoed.
The JDB co-chair advised the forces to join civilians in farming to fight food insecurity in their location, saying a food shortage would encounter the authority.
“A soldier is mobile; he or she can’t live in one place, so be ready to be assigned anywhere and join civilians in farming,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Michael Makuei Lueth, the government’s spokesperson, warned the forces against being used by political elements as election agents.
He said their role is to ensure that peace and order prevail during the conduct of democratic elections.
The combatants took off right after their military orientation at Luri Training Centre on Wednesday.