Peace monitors push for graduation of forces, NTC says it will take place in February

Observers of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) have expressed concern over delays in implementing the security arrangements, urging the government to expedite the graduation of unified forces.

The remarks by the peace monitors were made at a joint press conference in Juba on Tuesday after a meeting with the chairman of the National Transitional Committee-a body tasked to oversee the implementation of the security arrangements- and presidential advisor for national security affairs Tut Gatluak Manime.

According to Chapter Two of the R-ARCSS which consists of the security arrangements, government and opposition forces are supposed to canton and train unified forces during a 3-year transitional period leading into elections. But according to observers, the process has been lagging.

The government says the delay is largely due to a lack of funds to facilitate the graduation of forces who have been in cantonment sites across the country since January 2020.

Ambassador Joram Mukama Biswaro, the African Union envoy to South Sudan addressing the press said the training centers are in deplorable conditions and forces there lack food, water, and medicine.

“In some places, the trainees either they have deserted or abandoned the training centers. So, from our perspective, this is a concern and we believe that the security arrangements and particularly the necessary unified force is the cornerstone of the agreement. And if this is shaken then the agreement is shaken too,” he emphasized.

Joram stated that they registered concerns about recent defections among the parties to the peace agreement which he says is akin to a violation of the agreement and should not be tolerated.

IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan, Ambassador Dr. Ismail Wais also stressed the need for speedy implementation of the security arrangements.

“Very important to us at the moment is two things. To have as soon as possible a deployment plan and also to have a graduation schedule. This will solve the problems in general and this is also what we have also agreed with his excellency Tut that the government will expedite this process,” he said.

Wais added, “What we are saying is the pace is too slow and we have to expedite and time is against us……we are encouraging the government to take the bold steps, move forward, and realize the graduation of the forces.”

Also addressing the press, the interim chairperson of the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) Charles Tai Gituai reminded the NTC of its role to oversee and avail necessary funds for the implementation of the agreement.

“Indeed, this cantonment is in a bad state, we have seen very challenging conditions where the soldiers are staying and we have brought this forward to the chair of the NTC and we have told him that he must be responsible for overseeing the implementation of the agreement. He is supposed to take responsibility for the funding of these institutions or mechanisms so that we can move forward on this particular chapter,” he said.

Tai added that NTC’s chair has promised to take responsibility, “We are looking forward to seeing graduation phase one, then we go to phase two, and then, of course, we see that we can operate within the framework of the timings that are given in the agreement to see that we have achieved our objective.”

For his part, the NTC chair Gatluak revealed that President Salva Kiir had issued an order for the graduation of the unified forces in training centers as soon as possible.

"We assure everyone that President Kiir issued an order to graduate the forces from the field and take in the second batch to maintain security in the country. Graduation is expected to take place early next month," he proclaimed.

Angelina Teny, the Minister of Defence and Veteran's Affairs confirmed that the ministry is jointly working with the committees to expedite the graduation of forces soon.

She explained that the security committees are working on graduation schedules and plans for the distribution of the forces after graduation.

Source: Radio Tamazuj

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