December 27th 2019 (Nyamilepedia) – A senior SPLA-IO commander in the country’s Eastern Equatoria has urged South Sudan’s army (SSPDF) to urgently vacate civilian centers in the interest of peace saying government forces have refused to comply with orders from the Joint Defense Board calling for vacation of civilian centers.
Recently, the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM) mentioned that over 20 civilian sites across the country are still being occupied by the South Sudan army.
“I am hereby calling for your office to withdraw all SSPDF from all civilian areas they are occupying in Pageri County after 10 months of none compliance of SSPDF in Pageri county to an order that came from Joint Defense Board in February 2019 for both SSPDF and Opposition forces to vacate all civilian areas and report to cantonment sites and selected barracks,” said Brig. Gen. Kobu David Silvestro who commands SPLA-IO forces in Eastern Equatoria in a letter addressed to South Sudan army chief Gen. Gabriel Jok Riak.
“The unification process of both SSPDF and Opposition forces require that all forces should assemble at designated barracks and cantonment sites for purposes of registration and screening of forces for eventual joint training in an effort to create unified forces for South Sudan Security Sector as stipulated in the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS, 2018),” he said in the letter extended to Nyamilepedia.
The opposition commander said their forces complied with orders from the Joint Defense Board (JDB) which called for vacation of civilian center while blamed the South Sudan army for failing to comply with such orders. He further said as result of their compliance, they are enduring hardships in the form of starvation and lack of medicine.
“Following the order issued by Joint Defense Board for all forces to assemble at cantonment sites and barracks, the SPLM/A (IO) forces of Pageri Brigade reported to Ashwa Cantonment site on 23 February. The SPLM/A (IO) forces of Magwi, Torit West and Special Brigades moved to Ashwa cantonment site in August 2019,” he said.
“We have endured all sorts of intentionally imposed inhuman hardships such as inadequate food and medical supplies to our forces at the cantonment site. We continue to endure these hardships only in the interest of peace for the citizens of our great nation South Sudan. Today marks 10 months of our constant presence at Ashwa Cantonment Site, but the forces of SSPDF that have settled after the 2013 Crisis in civilian areas,” he added.
He said government forces are still occupying civilian centers in Ame Junction, Moli Tokuro, Aucfuni, Kerepi Mutula, Kerepi Centre, Nyongwa, Pageri center, Loa Catholic Church, Loa center, Aswa bridge, Jeleyi, and Rei-Check point.
He said the government forces have remained in those locations and are “adamant to implement joint (JDB) orders.”
“Several stakeholders including Pageri brigade and Anyanya Division have on several occasions raised the issue of the non-compliance of SSPDF to assemble in Nimule barrack which is officially allocated for them just as Ashwa was allocated for SPLA-IO and other opposition forces who signed the R-ARCSS to different stakeholders including R-ARCSS mechanisms but to date there is no satisfactory response mentioned in relation to this issue.
“Now that we are about to enter the training stage of the unification process of alt forces, it is obvious that our forces shall be moved from the cantonment site to training centers but I would like to categorically state that the forces of Pageri Brigade shall only accept to move to training centers after SSPDF occupying civilian areas in our county are permanently removed and taken to the training centers.
“The occupation of civilian areas by SSPDF that comes with destruction of public and private facilities as well as environment plus harassment, arbitrary arrest and unnecessary road blocks as well as check points all over Ma’di area is a deterrent for voluntary return of our civilian population from within the country and from exile.
“Today, SSPDF are cutting trees indiscriminately for sale as firewood and charcoal including fruit trees that have sustained our community for generations. This is unacceptable and cannot continue like this in our watch. I would like to conclude that I and the forces under my command are committed to the R-ARCSS and would like to see R-ARCSS being implemented in letter and spirit.
“This explains why I have been implementing all orders from all relevant offices since the signing of Cessation of Hostility Agreement (COHA) and the R-ARCSS. However, 10 months down the road, I have come to the conclusion that we have been taken for granted and are being coerced to implement joint orders while SSPDF are left to implement selected orders which is contrary to the spirit of confidence and trust building.”