Sticky issues defining deadlock in deployment of forces
A flash back to the colourful parade that dotted the Dr John Garang Mausoleum in Juba when the first batch of Necessary Unified Forces graduated in August 2022 brings a fresh memory of hope that closed the chapter of resilience.
Dressed in their various uniforms, the forces graduated into their various cadres and were then to retreat to their cantonment sites in the wait for deployment. But this wait is now turning out to be everlasting, thanks to a push and pull among the partners of the peace agreement that is currently clamping down on the process. Speaking to The City Review on Tuesday, the spokesperson of the national army, equally the mouthpiece of the Joint Defence Board that oversees security arrangements, Maj. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang, said the process is held up by some slight stalemate between the parties.
He said the opposition had rejected the positions that were allotted to them, and up until now they have not been updated about the progress on this matter.
“We have not gone to second batch yet; we are still having the first batch still at training centres awaiting redeployment. And of course, the issue of redeployment is being delayed by about two factors,” he said.
But Puok Baluang, the spokesperson in the office of the First Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar, said their lists of commanders were ready, but there were areas to be agreed on regarding the department or directorates in the command structure.
“The lists are ready from our side. But we cannot submit our names [if we have not] agreed on the departments or directorates in the unified forces that will be allocated to the SPLM-IO, SSOA or the SSPDF,” he noted.
“We as the party, we know who will serve better where. This is the reason why they are saying, our list is ready, but we are waiting for the parties regarding the allocation of the structure.”
Principals yet to agree
Lul said if the positions allocated to the opposition were accepted, the principals would have submitted the lists of their nominees to be confirmed by the president.
“The other day, when we relinquished some positions to the opposition, the positions allocated to them were rejected. And it is like it brought a deadlock because, had they accepted, the principals would have submitted the lists of their nominees to the president for confirmation. But they didn’t do that,” he stated.
He noted that the redeployment of forces would only be possible when the stalemate is settled.
Baluang said the decision on the departments and directorates was left in the hands of the president and the first vice president to finalise.
“This issue was referred to principles, His Excellency the President and His Excellency the First Vice President, to make a final verdict on this matter.”
Baluang said the SSPDF had made a unilateral decision, forcing the SPLM-IO members in the committee to protest the positions, but maintained that the top commanders were already agreed upon and had no more contention.
“The SSPDF made a unilateral allocation of the structure, which was rejected by the SPLM-IO because it must be discussed and agreed upon by all parties,” Baluang argued.
“The SSPDF made a unilateral allocation, which was detected by our team in the committee, and, I suspect, they are waiting now for the two principals to sit down and discuss this matter because there are still pending issues.”
He stated that the president had created the positions of a deputy director for national security and a director in the police structure and gave them to the SSPDF, but they were not agreed upon.
He alleged the president also created a directorate in the police structure, which was not agreed upon by the parties, adding that these pending issues must be discussed by the parties to the agreement for the full structure of the forces to be made.
“In the national security, it was agreed there will be one director of internal security and external security and one deputy, however, the president created another position of the deputy and allocated that deputy to SSPDF and this is against what was agreed upon,” Baluang continued.
The political clash
In the Monday press conference after the sitting of the council of ministers, the national minister for information, Michael Makuei slammed the opposition for delaying submitting the names of commanders to be included in the unified command structure.
Makuei stated the government would proceed and redeploy forces without a unified command if the opposition failed to submit their lists.
“The food has already arrived, and despite the fact that SPLM-IO has not yet presented the list of their commanders, we will deploy them without command,” Makuei said.
This was after the National Transitional Committee (NTC) bought food such as sugar, maize, lentils, beans and rice for the deployment of the unified forces to the training and cantonment centres.
But according to the official spokesperson of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in Opposition (SPLA-IO), Col Lam Paul, the food was yet to be distributed.
“That food needs to be distributed, as long as the food is still in the NTC stores,” he said.
Lam said the deployment will drag on because the assembling of the forces will take a long time before they are deployed.
“I believe the assembly of these forces will be long, and that means there will be a delay in the deployment of these forces,” he added.
In April 2022, President Salva Kiir swore in officials whose ranks were confirmed as part of the unified command structure, including Chief of Defense Forces Gen. Santino Deng, Inspector General of Police Gen. Koang Gatkuoth, the Director-General of the National Security Service Gen. Akol Koor, Director-General of the National Wildlife Service Gen. Khamis Adiang and the Commissioner of the Civil Defense Forces.
‘‘His Excellency Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Republic, in his Capacity as the Commander-In-Chief of the Unified South Sudan National Army and the Supreme Commander of all Other Organized Forces, presided over the Oath of Allegiance of Officers whose ranks have been confirmed…” read a statement from the office of the president last year.
The Head of State had also issued a Republican Decree for announcing the names of nominees for the ranks in the unified command structure after the parties to the agreement approved the command sharing formula after which the first batch of the unified forces was later graduated.
The spokesperson of Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in Opposition (SPLA-IO) told The City Review that the sharing ratio of the command structure favoured South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) giving it powers over SPLA-IO and South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA).
Lam said the first vice president was in constant communication with the president to follow up on the matter because the unified command did not have the SPLM-IO but the national army.
“You cannot decide to say the SPLM-IO are not going to be deployed, we don’t have SPLM-IO in the necessary command; what we have is the national army, the necessary unified forces,” Lam said.
He added that he could not predict what would become of the structure because it was at the level of the principals to decide on it.