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South Sudan Defense Forces (SSDF)

Former Leader: Paulino Matip | Paulino Matiep

In 2006 the South Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF) were the first major rebel militia group in South Sudan to integrate in to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, which in 2005 signed a peace deal with Khartoum recognising it as the region’s official Army.

South Sudanese troops salute the coffin of late Gen. Paulino Matip at the Juba International Airport shortly after its arrival from Nairobi, Kenya on 24 August 2012. (ST)

As part of the landmark Juba Agreement between the South Sudan’s Army (SPLA) and the Sudan Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF), Paulino Matip assumed the second highest position in the South Sudanese Army (SPLA), only behind President Salva Kiir Mayardit, the country’s Commander-in-Chief.

Being appointed to such a high position was in recognition of Matip’s stature, commanding a force of around 50,000 men. Despite the SSDF receiving assistance from Khartoum as part of regimes divide and rule tactics, exploiting ethnic divisions in during the two-decade conflict, many feel that his lasting legacy was that he unified the two largest armed groups in South Sudan, and consequently severely weakened Khartoum’s control of the region.

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