Security dialogue in Wau: Forces agree that single army must be united and work as one

unmiss south sudan western bahr el ghazal wau armed forces unified national army cooperation

Senior military officers from the country's main armed forces met in Wau to discuss how best to function together in a single national army. Photo: Roseline Nzelle Nkwelle/UNMISS

3 Jul 2024

Security dialogue in Wau: Forces agree that single army must be united and work as one

Roseline Nzelle Nkwelle/Filip Andersson

WESTERN BAHR EL GHAZAL - With elections, including the tensions they may cause, set to take place in December, the creation of one national army is essential. Since it will consist of personnel previously belonging to different armed forces, it is paramount that these new brothers and sisters in arms get along.

“Peace begins with good relations between us, regardless of what affiliations we may have had in the past,” affirmed Wiliam Argo Otieno, a Major-General of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces who recently participated in a security dialogue in Wau.

The two-day forum, hosted by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), gathered a total of 42 senior military officers from the country’s two main armed forces for a discussion on how to promote and improve understanding and communication between them, thus enabling the peace deal to be fully implemented.

“The two groups have been working together for some time, but since issues arise from time to time, having this frank dialogue to address their differences is crucial,” said Sara Cleto, Governor of Western Bahr El Ghazal State, who called the occasion a “milestone”.

In her state, close and successful cooperation between the former foes is of particular significance as cattle-related skirmishes and other outbursts of intercommunal violence demand effective protection of civilians. Their right to an expanded civic and political space ahead of elections is also more likely to be respected by having a single, apolitical military force.

 “We are under one command, and we are the only organ responsible for the security of the state and its people,” averred Peter Ngoli, a Major-General of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army – in Opposition, who also stressed how civilians can contribute to reducing intercommunal violence by refraining from carrying arms.

Civil society activist Stephen Robo, representing the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, was pleased with peacekeeping mission’s initiative and its positive outcome.

“Seeing the level of mutual trust being displayed here is heartening and historic. It creates an enabling environment for the return of internally displaced persons and for the peaceful coexistence among citizens,” he ventured.

Moving forward, the main challenge, according to Leopold Kouassi, Acting Head of the UNMISS Field Office in Wau, will be to maintain this initial momentum.

“We will continue to support the state authorities to enhance peace and security It will be important to ensure that any friction between the forces is handled in a manner that does not affect civilians.”