Go and defend the flag, Kiir tells forces

Go and defend the flag, Kiir tells forces
Part of Necessary Unified Forces at Dr John Garang Mausoleum. {Photo: Yeip Joseph]

At least 21,000 unified forces graduated yesterday from various training centres as President Salva Kiir sent a warning shot to the soldiers that the ceremony did not mean that they would be going to war. 

Nearly four years after the signing of the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) in September 2018 and the roadmap to the peaceful end of the transitional period on August 10, 2022, the country took a significant step in the peace process by graduating the first batch of soldiers.

“To the graduating cadets, it is your duty to defend South Sudan against anybody who would want to take power from the people by force in contravention of the constitution and the law. “It is your responsibility to defend the flag of our country with all its colors and the meaning attached to each of them,” said Kiir.

He called upon the hold-out groups to return home and join other parties in peacemaking.

“We do not want rebels in our country. We want to disarm our civilians so that we combat community violence, eradicate cattle rustling, improve local security and end gender-based sexual violence and inter-communal fighting. There is nothing which cannot be solved,” he said.

In an elaborate speech that was interrupted by applause from the crowd from time to time, Kiir noted that getting freedom for the people of South Sudan has been both difficult and expensive. Generations and generations have been in this struggle.

Nostalgia creeps

“They struggled as early as 1947. I am one of those who survided it all. Joining the Anyanya 1 movement in 1967 right through the SPLM/A to this day. Only our generation managed to finish the aspiration of our people through independence of South Sudan on July 9, 2011 as provided for in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005,” he said.

Unfortunately, he said, the country lost track of this important mission by engaging in “unnecessary internal conflicts” in December 2013 and July 2016. That mistake, he said, has cost South Sudanese people dearly, including economic destruction to the extent that we could not pay for some critical needs to implement agreement. He says what is left is a commitment to helping the people.

“On that note I thank the parties to the agreement for their cooperation and for building a trust amongst us. Reducing a trust deficit after such a brutal internal war has never been easy. But I thank God we have slowly by slowly managed to rise from the ashes,” said Kiir.

However, to the graduating cadets, he said that from the point of graduation, they need to know that they are not an army to any of the parties in the conflict. They are now first national security organs of the Republic of South Sudan.

“As the president of the republic, I am your commander in chief. If your commander in chief was SPLM/A-IO Dr Riek Machar, or Hussein Abdelbagi, or any other unknown commander in chief, they are no longer, they are no more your commander in chief today. I am the only commander in chief, and you will be taking instructions from me personally. Now you belong to the republic of South Sudan and her people. You must refrain from being a member of any political party. And you must never consider yourself a soldier of any political group,” said President Kiir. 

He said it is their duty to treat South Sudanese people with justice and equality, adding that those who would be found to ‘discriminate against some of our people’ would be dismissed from the forces and face the full force of the law.

“The army is there to protect South Sudan from external aggression. The work of the national security is to provide intelligence so as to ensure that there is no danger against south Sudan,” he said, adding that those in the police are there to protect the people, while the prisons and civil defense are there to carry out their duties in accordance with the relevant laws, rules and regulations.