September 19, 2015 (Nyamilepedia) – South Sudan’s warring parties have made some progress on issues regarding security arrangement required for the interim period during a workshop in the Ethiopian Capital Addis Ababa, these includes formation of a Ceasefire Joint Command made of the two rival Army Chief of Staffs and their Deputies, the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism.
The parties have however failed to reach understanding on some key issues including the size and composition of Presidential Guards and the Joint Police Forces to protect Capital.
Even though the parties did agree in principles on demilitarisation of Juba and other major towns as called for in the peace agreement, they failed to however agree on the size and composition of the Joint Police Forces to be deployed collectively in the capital and in other areas, as each side gave different numbers of forces they would like to see deployed.
The size of the Presidential guards required for protection of the President and the First Vice President in the Capital Juba is one of the sticking issues in terms of number, as government proposed a very high number for forces to be deployed in the capital, however the Armed Opposition called for lower number of forces to be deployed, as this would prevent any future conflict and to help rebuild trust for a future united army.
The parties have however reached agreement on the areas of assembly and cantonment of troops from both sides in the areas of fighting especially in all areas of Greater Upper Nile, the parties have also reached agreement on discloser of forces from both sides and the number of the forces including points of assembly, but the details has not been revealed.
The Parties also agreed that all foreign forces would have to leave the country by early October as called for in the peace agreement, the foreign forces to leave would include the Ugandan Army and some of the Sudanese rebel groups that have been fighting alongside Kiir’s government troops.
The security workshop is required according to the peace agreement in order for parties to set out a comprehensive roadmap on implementation of security related aspects of the peace agreement, it however hit a deadlock by the end of last week when the government team made what observers and mediators described as ridiculous proposal for Presidential Guards needed to protect President Salva Kiir.
Government team propose that 17,000 Presidential Guards were needed to protect the President in the capital Juba, but the Armed opposition said that number was too large and instead proposed that between 700 to 800 Presidential Guards from each side should be enough to look after the Presidency.
IGAD mediators as a way to break the deadlock are then proposed a number of 1000 Presidential Guards from each side to protect the countries leadership.
The peace agreement requires both warring parties to set a size and composition for the number of Presidential guards and a Joint Police Force to take charge of security in the capital.
IGAD had previously propose a number of 265 Presidential guards for President Salva Kiir and 195 for SPLM-IO chairman Dr. Riek Machar, however that was later changed and IGAD instead proposed that both sides have a workshop and agree on reasonable number of forces, however government’s proposal of 17,000 forces has been dismissed by the Armed Opposition as too much.
Government’s deputy foreign minister Bashir Gbandi who is also the head of governments security team for the peace process said on Friday that the government was now demanding for 5000 Presidential Guards to take care of the President’s security instead of 17,000 calling it a compromise, but that number has still been described by both IGAD and the Armed opposition as too large for protection since the aim of the security arrangement is to reduce the guns, to demilitarise the towns and reduce chances of conflict by minimising chances of any major confrontation between parties.
The IGAD mediators say the security workshop held in the Ethipian Capital had been cordial and went according to the spirit of understanding despite the parties failing to reach agreement on the size of the presidential guards and of the Joint Police, it’s not yet clear when the sides would meet again or whether IGAD would make a final decision on the issue.
Reliable sources in the Armed Opposition say the sides have however agreed to consider a Joint Police size of 3000 inside the capital Juba pending approval from the top leadership of both sides, each side would be required to contribute 1500 personnel for the Joint Police Force to take charge of security in the capital Juba.
A senior official in the armed opposition said the idea of demilitarisation would not be practical and achievable if large number of troops from both sides are to be deployed in the capital, instead the opposition sees the security arrangement as a means to minimise conflict and rebuild trust and confidence between the warring parties, therefore do not agree with the idea of large number of Presidential Guards from both sides being deployed inside the capital.
As of Friday 18th September, the government through its deputy Foreign Minister said it proposed 5000 Presidential Guards, meanwhile the Armed Opposition Proposed 700 to 800, it’s now not clear how IGAD plans to reconcile the two positions to reach a neutral and reasonable position.
In addition to the mentioned disagreements, there has also been questions about the fate of other forces of the wildlife and Fire Brigade forces, it has not been clearly mentioned as to which forces they would belong to, be it to the Police or Army, however there is understanding that should be left to the Army Chief of Staff from both sides to decide on their fate.
The Parties have completed the workshop and have broken off on Friday, they would now return to their respective bases while awaiting further instructions from the IGAD.