JUBA – The Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission has expressed concerns over the delay in unification of forces in South Sudan.
RJMEC Chairperson Amb. Maj Gen (Rtd) Charles Tai Gituai says the unification of forces faces the biggest challenge, yet it is the most consequential for the stability and peace of South Sudan.
“For almost four years, troops have languished in the cantonment sites and training centres with very little support, and while the upper command echelon of the NUF is unified, the mid and lower levels are not,” Amb. Gituai said on Thursday.
The unification of forces is a provision of the 2018 peace deal that seeks to unify rival armed groups in a programme meant to create a professional military for South Sudan.
On August 31, 2022, more than 20,000 armed fighters graduated from months-long training to transition to professional soldiers in the first step of the unification process. By January 2023, 55,000 troops had been unified, but there hasn’t been any progress since then.
In this regard, Amb Gituai said without the completion of unification of forces under one commander-in-chief, achieving a secure environment for the December 2024 elections will be “a huge challenge”.
“There is no justification for the further delay of this process, or the defection of forces from one party to the other, which continues to be reported,” he said.
Noting that the recurring problem of lack of funding of the agreement institutions and mechanisms is causing severe operational difficulties, Amb Gituai appealed to the South Sudan government to fully fund the unification of forces and support the efforts of the security mechanisms who are working to bring the process to its conclusion.
“If this lack of support continues, then the transitional security arrangements, especially the much-delayed unification of forces, will further slowdown,” he said.
The RJMEC meeting did not reach quorum and could not be classed as the 33rd RJMEC Plenary and was rescheduled to December 7, 2023.
However, statements and detailed briefings by different agreement institutions and mechanisms on the status of the implementation of the agreement were discussed.
The meeting followed the appointment of members to reconstitute the Political Parties Council (PPC), the National Constitutional Review Commission (NCRC) and the National Elections Commission (NEC).
Gituai said while the reconstitution of the institutions was a welcome development, gender representation was wanting.
“Women’s representation in the reconstituted National Constitutional Review Commission is 33%, and in the reconstituted National Elections Commission, it is 22%. RJMEC reiterates its appeal to the Parties to always adhere to the 35% minimum representation of women in various institutions and bodies of the R-ARCSS,” he said.
He noted that the effective functioning of the institutions would pave the way for the widening of civic and political space, the completion of the permanent constitution, as well as the timely conduct of elections.
“Focus should now shift to operationalisation and adequate resourcing to ensure the delivery of their mandates,” he said.