JUBA (Reuters) – South Sudan President Salva Kiir ordered military officers loyal to his vice president, Riek Machar, to be officially integrated into a unified command of the army, state media said on Tuesday, a central pillar of the peace process.
Kiir and Machar’s forces signed a peace agreement in 2018 that ended five years of civil war. But implementation has been slow and the opposing forces have clashed frequently over disagreements about how to share power.
Fighting has flared in recent weeks. Following pressure from donors and international partners the two men met on April 8 and Machar submitted a list of officers to be absorbed into the security services.
Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) had suspended its participation in the peace deal’s oversight mechanisms last month citing attacks by government forces.
Machar’s military spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel said the move would help stop the ongoing ceasefire violations in different parts of the country.
“The SPLA-IO welcome the decision. It is really long awaited. We just hope that this will pave a way forward to the completion to the unification process,” Lam told Reuters.
The next step is to graduate SPLM/A-IO soldiers from training centres and integrate them into the army, but details remain to be worked out, including the precise ratio of troops from each side.
South Sudan’s civil war from 2013-2018, often fought along ethnic lines, claimed an estimated 400,000 lives, triggered a famine and created Africa’s biggest refugee crisis since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
(Writing by Hereward Holland; editing by Richard Pullin)