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South Sudan peace partners agree to establish presidential protection force

March 13, 2019 (JUBA) - South Sudan peace partners have agreed to set up a joint presidential protection force tasked with the protection of President Salva Kiir and his deputies during the transitional period.

Gen Lul Ruai Koang (ST photo)The protection of the opposition leaders was one of the thorny issues during the peace negotiations that hampered discussions on the security arrangements.

When the government insisted on the need to immediately reunify all the armed forces with the South Sudanese army after the signing of a peace agreement, the IGAD countries which mediate the talks went to propose troops to ensure the protection of the opposition leaders.

Reached by Sudan Tribune on Wednesday, Maj. Gen Lul Ruai Koang, Director for Media & Press and SSPDF Spokesperson said the South Sudanese army, SSPDF, the SPLA-IO and forces South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) agreed to set-up a joint protection forces numbering around 7,00 soldiers.

The Joint Defence Board which commands over all the armed forces during the pre-transitional period agreed to form a 700-strong presidential protection force. The SSPDF will provide 350 soldiers while the SPLA-IO and the SSOA will contribute together with 350 troops.

"Their commanding officers will receive Induction Course at Rombur Police Academy on the suburbs of Juba," said Maj. Gen Koang before to stress that "Their main task will be the protection of the Presidency(President and his Deputies)".

Asked about the role of this protection force and the IGAD protection force that will be deployed within the framework of the UN Mission in South Sudan, he said there will be a coordination between the different parties when the regional force is deployed.

"I’m not yet aware of IGAD’s plans to send special Force to protect opposition Leaders. However, when such arrangements are at the implementation stage, SSPDF and other security organs will seat and coordinate activities," he stressed.

In December 2018, the African Union Peace and Security Council backed the deployment of 1695-troop IGAD force to South Sudan and request to the UN Security Council to integrate it in the UNMISS troops.

The UN chief Antonio Guterres five days ago expressed readiness to have the IGAD force within the UN forces in South Sudan and vowed to submit appropriate recommendations regarding possible adjustments of the UNMISS mandate, once a security arrangement has been reached.