February 16, 2015 (JUBA) – Former rebel fighters based in South Sudan’s Upper Nile and Unity states said on Monday that the government has completed integrating more than 5,000 of its fighters into the national army (SPLA).
The development is seen as part of efforts aimed at consolidating and unifying the army’s ranks and file under one command.
Defence minister Kuol Manyang Juuk and chief of general staff Paul Malong Awan have announced that the integration of the two former militia groups across various units was now complete.
He blamed “administrative issues” for delays in the process.
Gordon Buay, formerly the spokesperson of the Unity and Upper Nile-based rebel fighters before being appointed as an ambassador after troops under his command laid down their arms in response to a presidential amnesty in 2012, told Sudan Tribune on Monday he was happy with the integration, saying all lower ranks and other categories had been fully absorbed in the army.
“The significance of this integration is that these forces will now be part and parcel of the national army. They will adopt the practice of the national army and can be transferred anywhere in the country where there is a security need to defend the interests of the nation,” said Buay.
“Soldiers and officers can now rise through the chain of command, including recommendations and promotions as part of the national army,” Buay explained.
The process followed the integration and appointment of high-ranking military officers into different divisions and sectors of the SPLA in 2013.
The integration process was carried out in four different phases, the first being to identify those who would be able to remain in the army, those who would go into the civil service as well as those ready to be demobilised and assisted to return into their communities.
The second and third phases were to integrate those who had been identified as being part of the SPLA, while the last phase would involve training the new soldier following their deployment in various units.
“Now we have finished with the integration, they (soldiers) will now be deployed and thereafter we will commence training as part of the transformation of the SPLA,” Juuk told reporters on Monday.
The minister also revealed that the integration of forces from the South Sudan Democratic Movement cobra faction loyal to David Yau Yau, was underway and due to be completed soon.
“This is part of the agreement. You know, that agreement has already been implemented with the creation of [the] Pibor administration and the appointment of the chief administrator, and we are now working on the integration phases so that we close the process,” Juuk said.
“The integration committee has been formed and it is already working on the process,” he added.