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S. Sudan army changes to delay graduation of unified forces: official

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Lam Paul Gabriel

April 14, 2021 (JUBA) - The recent changes in the top leadership of the South Sudanese army (SSPDF) are likely to delay the graduation of the unified forces, an official said.

Lam Paul Gabriel, the ministry of defense spokesperson said the sacking of the army chief of staff, Gen. Johnson Juma Okot and replacing him with Santino Deng Wol will affect implementation of the security arrangement.

"The pending tasks on the security arrangement are paused due to the new SSPDF deployments and are expected to be completed by the new army chief," Lam told Xinhua in Juba on Wednesday.

"As far as security is concerned we just received new deployments, the chairperson (Okot) was relieved and now we have a new chief of defense forces who is going to become the chairperson of the Joint Defense Board" he added.

Under the 2018 revitalized peace deal, the Joint Defense Board (JDB) is is the body charged with overseeing security reforms in the country.

The peace deal calls for establishment of unified forces made up of 83,000 soldiers to take charge of security during the three-year transitional period.

According to Lam, the number of soldiers supposed to form the first batch of unified forces to be graduated is unknown after several soldiers from training centers deserted due to lack of food, safe water and medicines.

(ST)

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