Opposition and Government forces move to training site in Western Equatoria

3 Feb 2020

Opposition and Government forces move to training site in Western Equatoria

Denis Louro Oliver

Opposition and Government forces move to training site in Western Equatoria

Ululation, dancing and singing marked the start of a long journey for opposition troops as they headed to a training site in Western Equatoria to unite with former foes in the government forces.

The soldiers proudly paraded together before gathering up their belongings and boarding trucks to take them to sites in Maridi and Rajaf where they will take part in the reunification of security forces as set out in the 2018 peace deal.

“I am happy to go for the training,” says Louis Zuzu a female soldier in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO).  “We are going to the Maridi training centre for peace because we don’t want to fight anymore. As women we are going to support men for the sake of peace.”

The process of reunification has been sluggish and there are still significant challenges to be overcome. This includes ensuring access to water, food, medicines and shelter at cantonment and training sites. 

Commenting on the movement of forces, the Division Commander of SPLA-IO troops in the area, Major General James Nando said it was important to meet the basic needs of the troops and to work together on implementing the peace agreement.

“What we need is, not only, food, but tents, clean water, drugs and other basic necessities for forces at the training centre,” said Major General Nando.

Similarly, 500 troops from Brigade 16, Division Six, of the Government-controlled South Sudan Defense Forces (SSPDF) are also moving to the training sites.

Their commander described the move as historic and an important step towards professionalizing South Sudan’s security forces.

“The call of the nation is our obligation. The reorganization of the SSPDF is about the integrity and protection of this nation, especially the national constitution,” said Brigadier General Jordan Oting.

Despite the difficulties, the Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, David Shearer, said any progress made towards reunification will build trust and confidence in communities that the combined forces will ultimately take responsibility for protecting civilians.

“It’s a process and the more we have confidence from the leadership to make sure that these people are sent to the sites, the more that people see these forces being together, perhaps sharing the same uniform and being deployed together eventually, that will give them the confidence to know that the country is on the right track and moving forward,” said David Shearer.