Defense Minister declares unified troops at Alel training centre ready to graduate and deploy in Upper Nile
After months of joint training, more than 5,000 troops from the government, opposition and other allied armed groups gathered at the Alel military training centre in the Upper Nile region are ready to graduate.
They will become part of the unified national security force as stipulated in the revitalized peace agreement signed in September 2018.
These troops were once bitter enemies, fighting against each other during the civil war that raged across South Sudan for more than five years. But on this day, they were addressed by the country’s first ever female Minister of Defense, Angelina Teny, who travelled to the training centre to meet the nation’s uniformed, unified future.
She spoke passionately about the many atrocities that happened during the conflict and called on the forces to accept responsibility for any wrongdoing.
“We [the army] disrespected our women and children. We didn’t respect our wives. We never respected our children - we raped them. Is this a lie? If somebody accepts the horrible and bad things he has done, then this is the right time to correct yourselves, but if you pretend and hide your head as an ostrich underground, then you still have a problem,” the Minister declared, adding the looting and destruction of people’s homes and the mass displacement of civilians to the long list of problems caused by the civil war.
Considering the troops ready for graduation, Angelina Teny told the uniformed men and woman about the urgent need to move forward as part of the process of implementing the peace agreement, which has suffered numerous delays.
“I will go back and raise my report to the President of the Republic and the High Command, that our forces in Alel are ready for graduation and ready to go to their places of responsibility as a unified force - the first batch,” she announced.
Speaking at the meeting, Hazel De Wet, Head of the Malakal Field Office for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, urged the troops to come together in peace as a unified and respected national force.
“What we would like to see is the uniformed integrated army to commence without delay. So, with those few words let me say, as UNMISS and as the Upper Nile Head of Field Office, that we are your partner for peace. We were your partner for peace yesterday, and we will remain your partner for peace for all of South Sudan,” she said.
It is expected that the newly trained troops at Alel will graduate and be deployed to various locations across the Upper Nile in the next few weeks.