Over 1,500 unified forces graduate in Torit
At least 1,540 unified military forces on Monday graduated in Torit in Eastern Equatoria State amidst calls for them to be disciplined and avoid tribalism.
The occasion was graced by South Sudan’s minister of defense and veteran affairs, Angelina Teny, and several national ministers including Interior Minister Solomon Mahmoud, the minister of wildlife and tourism, Rizik Zacharia, Chief of Defense Forces Gen. Santino Deng Wol, Police Chief Majak Akech and a host of generals from the armed forces.
The graduation in Torit had been called off three times due to logistical issues which forced many of the graduating soldiers to foot from their training center in Owinykibul to attend the event.
Speaking at Torit Freedom Square, the chairperson of the Joint transitional security committee, Lt. General Welebe Samson William, said about 61 soldiers died at the training center in the last three years.
“Today (Monday), we have seen 1,540 soldiers graduate and they have taken the oath. There are 61 soldiers who died in Owinykibul in the last three years. As you have seen, some of the soldiers have no caps, socks, belts, guns, etc but they have graduated and these are soldiers,” he said. “It is now the role of the army chief to provide them with guns and other equipment and these trainers who worked tirelessly should be rewarded for the good work they have done.”
“These forces will stay here in Torit until their deployment and they can be taken anywhere but their deployment will be done in here Torit,” he added.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Teny tasked the soldiers to defend the dignity of the people and the territory of South Sudan.
“You are already unified and you know your mandate to the people in the country. You should not just defend but respect the people and their integrity. This means you do not intimidate, you do not loot because you have government power,” she said. “You have a mandate to defend the borders. You have heard our country is under an arms embargo from UN and America and we have been put on the list of shame of the UN Secretary-General because our soldiers take women by force.”
She said the graduating soldiers have trained in international humanitarian law among other things and tasked them to remove the country from the list of shame.
For his part, Major General Jack Bakasumba, a representative from Uganda which is one of the guarantors of the peace agreement, said peace should prevail in South Sudan and that citizens should be able to move freely.
“I want to remind you that we need peace in South Sudan and people should be able to move without any threat, without anyone firing any shot at them. The people of South Sudan should enjoy peace like other Africans on this continent and the guns should go silent,” he said. “The guarantors and all the partners are here to support you because there is no country that can develop without peace.”
“The security institutions play a very big role in the development of any country and that is the challenge of south Sudan,” he added.
The SSPDF Chief of Defense Forces, Gen. Santino Deng Wol, tasked the graduating soldiers to defend the country, the government, and the people.
“You have been given your mandate and you must secure areas in Torit and there should be more problems. You have to be professional so that South Sudan returns to its normal position like in the past,” he said. “I want to tell you that your role is to defend the country and its borders and the properties of the people. There is no politics in the army and if you are a politician and you are a soldier, from today you need to move out and surrender our uniform.”
“There is no tribalism and no political party in the army,” he added.
However, the Eastern Equatoria State governor, Louis Lobong Lojore, urged the government to engage the new soldiers in infrastructure development, agriculture, and other useful activities to avoid them being idle.