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Sudan army unhappy over establishment of SPLA air force

June 25, 2008 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese army expressed reservation about a bill adopted by the semi-autonomous South’s Legislative Assembly calling for creation of an air force.

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In a handout picture from the United Nations Mission In Sudan (UNMIS), Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) troops sit aboard a UN flight from the southern Sudanese city of Juba to Wau on June 17, 2008 (AFP)

Yesterday Southern lawmakers approved a Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) White Paper on Defense stating that the armed forces should consist of “grounds force supported by air and riverine units”.

The spokesperson for the Sudanese defense ministry told the daily Al-Ahdath that the SPLA is subject to numerous limitations per the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005 between North and South.

“The SPLA is not allowed to carry out military operations or any other activities” Lieutenant Colonel Al-Sawarami Sa’ad said.

“The SPLA is only allowed to conduct training within the joint forces” he added.

This is the first reaction by a Northern government official to the resolution by Southern lawmakers.

The bill passed yesterday deals with the security environment of South Sudan, SPLA mission and role in the defense of southern Sudan, in addition to the administrative and military structure. The law also establishes a committee to monitor the management of SPLA budget.

According to the CPA, the SPLA forces shall be funded by the Government of Southern Sudan while the SAF and the joint units are funded by the national government.

Southern Sudan government has no military aircraft and Juba does not seem prioritizing such plan. However formation of southern pilots is seen as first necessary step towards a future air force.

The demobilization and the professionalization of the SPLA troops have been delayed since 2005 due to the lack of funds and fears that relieved soldiers without a profession or a job can create troubles in the south.

The White Paper tries to trace a map for the transformation of the SPLA from a revolutionary army to a regular and conventional one with the formation and training of reduced army.

(ST)