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JUBA - 1 Nov 2021

Graduation of unified forces to be delayed yet again

The graduation of unified forces might be delayed again from its initial schedule as a body tasked with screening of forces at the training sites face logistical challenges.

"The screening committee is ready to begin its work, but it is still waiting for money from the National Transitional Committee (NTC). So, there might be a slight delay in the graduation of the forces because screening has to happen first," Major General Lul Ruai Koang, a spokesman for the military, told Radio Tamazuj on Friday.

President Salva Kiir in July promised the graduation of the first batch of 53,000 unified forces, but this has not materialized due to lack of consensus on the unified military command structure among the parties in the unity government.

In mid-October, the Joint Defense Board, the body charged with overseeing the training and graduation of the necessary unified forces, said the graduation of the necessary unified forces will take place in the first week of November.

The body said it had resolved to start the screening of forces at the various training camps in Equatoria, Bahr el Ghazal, and Upper Nile regions before the graduation of forces.

However, Lul said the National Transitional Committee (NTC) led by President Salva Kiir's security advisor Tut Gatluak has not yet prepositioned the necessary logistics required to facilitate the screening process.

"The committee tasked with screening of the forces is ready. So, once we receive the money, the committee will travel to the three regions to start its work. There are 18 training camps across the country, and three screening teams have already been set up," said Lul.

According to the military spokesman, soldiers who deserted training sites over the past months have been asked to report back for screening to pave the way for the graduation of the first batch of the unified forces.

"I would like to inform the public that the delay in the graduation of the unified forces will not be too much, it will just be a slight delay. The graduation might take place within November," said Lul.

Peace monitors have in the past expressed concern over dire conditions in training sites that have forced a sizable number of soldiers to desert due to lack of food, medicines and shelters.

Under the 2018 peace deal, South Sudan is supposed to graduate 83,000 unified forces drawn from the various parties to take charge of security during the ongoing transitional period.