February 12, 2016 (JUBA) – The military leadership in South Sudan has been ordered to withdraw forces from the national capital, Juba, in implementation of a peace agreement signed in August last year between President Salva Kiir’s government and armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) led by the newly-appointed First Vice President, Riek Machar.
- SPLA) soldiers sit before the start of celebrations on the 31st anniversary of the SPLA in Juba May 16, 2014. (Photo Reuters/Andreea Campeanu)
President Kiir on Friday ordered army chief of general staff, Paul Malong Awan, to withdraw forces to 25km outside the capital in preparation for deployment of joint police and military forces from rival armies in the country.
The directives came a day after the appointment of the armed opposition leader, Machar, as the First Vice President, placing him next to President Kiir and above Vice President, James Wani Igga, in accordance with the terms of the peace agreement.
President Kiir, according to Lieutenant General Malek Reuben Riak, deputy chief of general staff for logistics and head of the security arrangements committee representing the government, has given out instructions for withdrawal from Juba town despite lack of willingness and cooperation from senior government officials and military officers.
“Our forces are preparing to leave. The commander in chief has directed the command and the chief of general staff [Paul Malong Awan] has given out instructions to departments and directorates involved in the preparations. The directorate of logistics is in charge of coordination,” said General Riak when asked to comment on what the command was doing during an exclusive interview with Sudan Tribune.
The Chief General of staff, Awan, confirmed on Tuesday in a statement to the state-owned South Sudan Television (SSTV) that he had directed his deputies to prepare for withdrawal of troops in Juba to 25 kilometers outside the town as it was agreed in the peace agreement as part of interim security arrangements.
Awan said he and his team were working with the advance team of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) in Juba to implement security arrangements.
The army commander also denied media reports that he is an obstacle to implementation of the security arrangements in the country as he is allegedly opposed to the peace agreement.
“It’s not true. I am a loyal officer to the system and the leadership and there is no way I can be against the directives of the president. It is the prerogative of the president to decide where to assign cadres,” said Awan.
The top army general was said to be against the implementation of the peace agreement and blamed for some of the actions by President Kiir which have been condemned as impediment to the implementation of the peace deal.
“I am working with the SPLM-IO (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition) to implement security arrangement. Already I have given directives to my deputies and now they are working together with them,” he added.
Vice President, James Wani Igga, while taking oath of office as the second vice president said the government was ready for formation of the new government and if all the parties to the agreement sit in one table, they would resolve all the outstanding issues, including the differences over 28 states.
“I know that, this is a difficult moment of our history, the history of the new republic of South Sudan… but I believed with the trust, confidence and cooperation of my colleagues in the upcoming cabinet and particular cooperation between the parties to the agreement, if we cooperate, I am sure we will deliver to our people,” said Igga.