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JUBA - 24 Jan 2020

Training of VIP unit has not yet started: military

SPLA-IO forces at their base in Panyume, South Sudan. (AFP PHOTO)
SPLA-IO forces at their base in Panyume, South Sudan. (AFP PHOTO)

The training of the VIP protection unit that will be in charge of protection for top political leaders has not yet started, the military said.

In June 2019, the parties to the peace deal agreed to form a 3,000-strong VIP protection unit. The protection forces are to be drawn from the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF), the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In-Opposition (SPLA-IO) and soldiers from the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA).

Lul Ruai Koang, South Sudan’s military spokesman, told Radio Tamazuj on Thursday that opposition forces from the Upper Nile region  have not yet arrived in the Gorom training center in Yei River State, causing delays in the training process.

Koang, who was on a field visit to the military training centers in the greater Bahr el Ghazal region, said lack of tents, food and clean drinking water were some of the challenges facing the forces.

"If a soldier falls sick, we cannot transfer him to the nearest hospital because there are no vehicles. Also, we don’t have enough military uniforms for forces in the camps, especially for the IO [SPLA-IO] and SSOA [South Sudan Opposition Alliance] forces,” he explained.

Koang pointed out that committees formed to visit the training camps across the country were able to reach those areas to assess the situation.

Lam Paul Gabriel, the SPLA-IO deputy military spokesperson, confirmed the delay of their forces, citing logistical reasons.  He said there was no budget allocated for the transportation of the SPLA-IO forces from Upper Nile to Gorom center.

In November 2019, the national government allocated $16.5 million for the security mechanisms to speed up the creation of unified forces, a key requirement of the 2018 peace accord.

The number of states and transitional security arrangements are the key outstanding issues to be addressed before parties form a unity government next month.