South Sudan rivals agree on unified army command

South Sudan rivals have signed an agreement on the formation of a unified armed forces command, a key pillar of a peace agreement signed in 2018.

The deal was signed on Sunday in the capital, Juba, following mediation by neighbouring Sudan.

Tensions between President Salva Kiir and First Vice-President Riek Machar had recently led to clashes between their respective forces.

The deal sets out terms of integrating opposition commanders into the armed forces.

President Kiir’s faction will have a 60 per cent representation in key positions in the army, police and security forces. Vice President Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO)SPLM-IO and other opposition groups will occupy the remaining 40 per cent.

At a signing ceremony on Sunday evening attended by a representative of neighbouring Sudan’s government, Kiir and Machar re-committed to the peace deal, agreeing to abide by a previous ceasefire and speed up the integration of their forces.

Opposition generals will be appointed to a unified command structure in the next week. The sides will then move on to graduating SPLM/A-IO soldiers from training centres to integrate them into the army.

“We must implement what we say. The people of South Sudan expect that from us,” said Martin Gama Abucha, an SPLM/A-IO representative, after the signing.

Tut Gatluak Manime, representing Kiir’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) party, thanked Sudan “for standing with us to prevent another escalation into war and supporting the implementation of the peace deal”.

The opposition will submit the list of their commanders within a period of one week.

It will be followed by the graduation of the unified forces and their deployment – which should not exceed a period of two months, according to the deal.

“People of South Sudan are yearning for peace and peace is about security and today we have made a milestone in that. We have agreed that we shall be moving forward,” said Major General Martin Abucha, who represented Vice President Machar’s faction.

“I want to call on my colleagues from the other sides that it is important to silence the guns so that South Sudan can prosper. Let there be not fighting, let there be no attacks,” he added.

The regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), has hailed the deal as “a major breakthrough”. –BBC/Reuters

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