November 25, 2014
JUBA – The South Sudanese government has rejected a proposal by the armed opposition allied to the former vice-president Riek Machar which sought to allow the existence of two armed forces during the pre-interim period should there be a consensus for the proposed government of national unity.
The opposition group says allowing two armies would enable them assemble and organise their forces in designated areas ahead of the reintegration process.
However, government officials have interpreted the demand as an attempt by the opposition to prepare for a referendum in the event the agreement is not fully implemented.
Defence minister Kuol Manyang Juuk told reporters on Tuesday that the leadership meeting had agreed for one national army, saying it rejected the proposal to allow another group to operate under a different command.
“The leadership has agreed that there will be one army under one command. It was also resolved that those who defected will be reintegrated at the same rank [held] when they left,” he said following the meeting on security arrangements.
“The other issue which was also discussed and agreed was that the integration process should only be limited to those who defected. Those who joined the rebels and were not in the SPLA (South Sudanese army) [previously] shall not be accepted,” he added.
Cabinet affairs minister Martin Elia Lomuro also confirmed to reporters on Monday that the consultative meeting, which brought together senior government and party members from across the country’s 10 states, had unanimously agreed to reject the existence of two armies.
“The unanimous decision of the conference is that we are one country and we have 64 communities or tribes. Therefore there is no way one community can demand to have 50 per cent or 70 per cent of the army,” said Lomuro.
Government and rebel forces have been locked in an armed struggle since mid-December last year after a political split in the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) turned violent.
Peace talks in Ethiopia between the rival parties, which are being mediated by the Intergovernmental Violence Authority on Development (IGAD) have been marred by ongoing delays and political differences.
Previous ceasefire deals agreed by both sides have failed to hold amid fresh outbreaks of violence between the warring factions on the ground.