Thousands of former rebels took the pledge of allegiance during a ceremony in South Sudan held under strict security. The event took place just a few weeks after the leaders of the nation, who had been chosen to oversee a transitional government, declared that they would continue to rule for a further two years after a mutually agreed-upon date.
Almost 22,000 men and women, representing the major parties as well as the South Sudan Opposition Alliance, took part in the events on Tuesday, which were initially planned to happen in 2019 following the peace agreement.
Salva Kiir Mayardit, the president of South Sudan, applauded the accomplishment made by the event. According to South Sudanese President, “Out of all the chapters of the agreement, the graduation of the unified forces under chapter two has been the most challenging and yet the most important.”
“A unified defense force is one of the most visible and meaningful expressions of national unity, especially in societies emerging from conflict. Its establishment will, on account of its inclusivity and diverse representation, symbolize the national identity of South Sudan”, remarked Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General & Head of UNMISS who also praised the progress made.
Riek Machar, vice president and leader of the opposition, said,”Over two hundred of your comrades have died in the eighteen training centers, some died because of disease and no medication, some died because of hunger as the food was not available.”
Being the world’s youngest country, having gained independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan has struggled with floods, starvation, ethnic warfare, and political unrest while lurching from crisis to crisis.