COLOUR: Historic parade of brings Juba to standstill
From years, to months, to a day, the hour for the graduation of the Necessary Unified Forces (NUF) came yesterday, temporarily bringing business in Juba to a standstill.
The ever-busy Customs Market, which is right opposite Dr John Garang Mausoleum, which was the venue for graduating over 50,000 forces, was deserted. All roads led to the Mausoleum. The hawkers and shop owners had closed for the day, to be part of this historic moment, as the country made deliberate and sure steps towards a lasting peace.
The wide gate at the venue—which is historic as this is where the remains of the country’s founding father, Dr. John Garang, were interred—would witness an uninterrupted stream of nationals who all wanted to see for themselves the events of the day.
A rather abnormally long queue snaked its way more than one kilometre away to Juba University. One by one, the attendees went through the security checks before being allowed in. This was a high-profile function, and security was a major priority.
As you entered, the first thing you noticed were men and women from various forces donning their various fatigues. The fresh smiles on their faces gave some sort of assurance that this time round the country could have got the peace equation right.
There was never going to be a dull moment as several cultural groups, at the invitation of the State, stepped in with various songs and dances. The songs kept the attendees engaged and entertained as the forces continued with last minute rehearsals, awaiting speeches from the dignitaries.
South Sudan flags were not only in the hands of citizens flying in the air but all in the hands of participants, including those from neighbouring countries of Uganda, Sudanese, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritria Kenya, and many more who came to share the day of joy with South Sudanese.
The parade was colourful with many young faces practising with old guns in their hands, continuously matching as they waited for the program to start.
Guns were not enough as soldiers at the forefront were handling arms different from those at the middle meanwhile the rest who were at the back were without guns.
As the officers continued with the parade, the sweltering heat from the sun overhead complicated matters for some army men and women who collapsed and had to be rushed out to a waiting ambulance for first aid. With help from the first aid team, some were carried to the nearby military hospital while others were helped on spot with water and other first aid medicines.
Here come the generals
The Mausoleum came alive with the arrival of generals of various cadres. Some were in suits, while others were donned in military fatigues. One by one they took up their positions in the designated seats.
There followed the arrival of the host President Salva Kiir with his Ugandan counterpart – Yoweri Kaguta Museveni – in tow, eliciting jubilation from the crowd.
As the attendees waited for the speeches that would crown the day, there was an uninterrupted supply of traditional songs.
When at last the house was called to order, and President Kiir asked people to sing the national anthem, tears started flowing freely. This is when it dawned on the participants that, at last, the process of having a unified force had become a reality.
The tears of joy showed that at last a mistake was being corrected, but maybe, just maybe, the tears were a reminder of what had been lost. The lives and properties were lost because of infighting between various forces in an independent South Sudan.
In the allegiance order read out yesterday, 21,973 forces graduated. 3,308 of them were VIP protection forces, 4,366 South Sudan National Police Service personnel, 6,315 for the National Security Service, and 1,120 for National Prison service. Also, 3,575 will be integrated into National Wildlife Service and 3,289 into Civil Defence Service.