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South Sudan integrates former rebels into regular army

November 29, 2013 (JUBA) - South Sudan has integrated former rebel groups into the rank and file of its regular army and other security organs, ending several months of behind-the-scene negotiations.

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South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, delivers a speech in the capital, Juba, on 10 June 2013 (Reuters)

The move comes following an executive order by president Salva Kiir Mayardit in which he announced the commissioning and appointment of several former rebel fighters to active military and civil service, mostly those who responded to a general amnesty.

“They are now being integrated into our armed forces and other security organs. Some will go the civil services”, Kiir said at the opening of the governor’s forum on Tuesday, without saying how many former rebel fighters would be incorporated.

Presidential orders pardoning rebel groups have seen a significant reduction in insurgency concentrated largely in the Greater Upper Nile region. Five groups decided to abandon the rebellion in 2012 in response to a general amnesty, with eight others following in 2013.

In accordance to orders announced by the state-owned South Sudan Television and Radio on Monday, Kiir commissioned Bapiny Monytuil as lieutenant general and Johnson Uliny, along with four other colleagues, as major generals, all into active military service.

Spokesperson for the South Sudan army (SPLA) Colonel Philip Aguer confirmed that all leaders of the former rebel factions have been integrated, but did not provide specific details on how the process was conducted.

“Integrations from the three groups, those who were with Bapiny Monytuil and Johnson Uliny, who accepted to lay down arms under [a] separate amnesty, have been completed. The process of integrating soldiers into the SPLA is underway”, said Aguer.

He put the number of rebel fighters from different factions expected to be integrated into active military service at 3,000. Aguer declined to comment on the how many former rebels would join the police service, pointing out that screenings were still being carried out.

Meanwhile, Gordon Buay, spokesperson of the leadership council of the former South Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SSLM/A), said that his group expresses its “deepest appreciation and gratitude” to Kiir for his decision to appoint the top leadership of his group to positions of power.

“The appointments of top military and political leaders fulfilled most of our demands”, Buay said in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Thursday.

General Thomas Cirilo Swaka, who represented the SPLA during months of behind-the-scene negotiations, scrutinised the demands of rebel groups.

According to Buay, the commissioning and immediate integration of senior officers is in line with a series of power-sharing and security arrangements agreed between rebels and the South Sudanese government.

“[The] South Sudan Liberation Army is given the army position of one lieutenant general, five major generals, six brigadier generals and the remaining ranks from colonel up to NCOs shall be arranged based upon the strength of [the] forces of [the] SSLA”, he said.

Buay said the deal provides for the appointment of a presidential adviser and two ambassadors to his group’s political wing.

“In Upper Nile and Unity states, the SSLM’s political wing is awarded one adviser to the governor of Upper Nile and one minister and adviser to the governor of Unity state”, he said.

The appointments have been confirmed by a 25 November presidential decree, with gubernatorial decrees already issued by the governors of Upper Nile and Unity states, said Buay.

The former rebel spokesman did not elaborate on whether he would be appointed to a gubernatorial or ambassadorial position, but unconfirmed reports say he will receive an ambassadorial position and posted to one of the key foreign countries.

SERIOUS ENGAGEMENT WITH YAU YAU

Buay said efforts must continue to bring on board those rebel movements still at large, calling on rebels loyal to David Yau Yau to join ongoing efforts to bring peace and stability to the new nation.

“We seriously encourage and call upon David Yau Yau to respond to peace offered by president Kiir to bring peace and unity among the people of South Sudan”, he said.

He also called on tribal leaders of the Murle, Nuer and Dinka in Jonglei state to address the protracted violence affecting their communities.

Buay has appealed to the international community to support Kiir in his endeavours to end political and communal unrest and bring lasting peace to South Sudan, saying the responsibility should not rest with the president alone.

“The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) must also play its role in assisting the president to consolidate unity and peace in South Sudan”, he said.

(ST)