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LOCKDOWN-Delays graduation of unified forces

By Bullen Bala Alexander.

The current lockdown continue to interrupt plans for the graduation of unified forces, the press secretary in the office of the Minister of Defense and Veteran Affairs Col. Lam Paul Gabriel confirmed in an exclusive interview with Juba Monitor.

“The partial and fresh lockdown has again stopped ongoing plans for graduating the unified forces until it is lifted, we cannot move ahead with the plans of scheduling the right month or day,” Col. Gabriel disclosed.

He added that the lockdown even stopped activities of gathering the forces in one place even visiting the training centers they are not allowed to go there as a measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“We have been authorized to stop it even to visit training centers we cannot be able to visit them but I believe after this month when it is lifted people may be able to get right answers when these forces are excepted to graduated. We have several plans but there are no activities that can be carriedout with the lockdown until it is lifted,so we are waiting for it to be lifted than the process will get started,” he said.

 He further disclosed that lack of enough food, medicine and clean water are amongst other challenges that continue to affect unified forces in the training centers.

According to Col. Gabriel, those challenges made some forces to escape training centers and he believe they will be ready to come back to join their colleagues during graduations.

“Of course not all the forces are there in training centers, but some left the training centers due to family commitment, some left due to the challenges they are facing in cantonment areas but they are ready to come back when the graduation is scheduled,” he stressed.

According to the September 2018 peace deal, government and opposition forces were supposed to be cantoned, registered, and trainedas unified forces during a 3-year transitional period leading into elections. But two years on, observers warn the process is lagging and threatens the peace implementation.

Last month before the renewed lockdown, Nhial Deng Nhial, Minister of Presidential Affairs said that President Salva Kiir and his five deputies have agreed to speed up the graduation of the first batch of soldiers who had been under training since late 2019.

“The parties agreed to speed up the unification of the top echelons of the army command to pave way for the integration process of all forces into a single national army under one unified command.”

According to the 2018 revitalized peace deal, the nation is supposed to train and graduate a unified force of 83,000 personnel to take charge of security during the transitional period until 2023 when elections are held.

The unification of the army has been delayed amid missed deadlines.The process has also been hampered by the economic hardship in the country which has left the government with a limited resource envelope caused by the more than six years of conflict which broke out in December 2013.

Some soldiers in the past abandoned the training centers due to lack of food, medicines, and safe clean water among others.

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