South Sudan’s political rivals agree to unify army command

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South Sudan’s president and his deputy signed an agreement to unify the military command of the security forces

JUBA, South Sudan — South Sudan’s president and his deputy on Sunday signed an agreement to unify command of the security forces, a deal that eases political tensions in the East African country.

Clashes in recent days between government troops and forces loyal to Vice President Riek Machar have raised the threat of a new outbreak of serious fighting. In a letter to regional mediators, Machar had accused President Salva Kiir of violating a 2018 truce, citing attacks on his forces.

Sunday’s agreement calls for a unified structure in the security services, including the army and police, with a 60-40 split in favor of Kiir’s side.

Other details, including the positions assigned to each party, were not immediately available.

Kiir and Machar both attended the signing ceremony in South Sudan’s capital Juba, where there was a massive military deployment on Monday, underscoring growing tensions.

“It is to inform everyone that we have agreed to unify the military command. We are for peace and we must all fight for peace,” said Tut Gatluak, Presidential National Security Advisor.

Martin Gama Abucha, the mines minister who is a member of Machar’s team, said the event was key to maintaining peace in the country.

“It is important that we silence the guns, so that South Sudan can prosper,” he said.

There were high hopes for peace and stability when oil-rich South Sudan gained independence from Sudan long ago. .

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the civil war that ended with a 2018 peace deal that united Kiir and Machar in a government of national unity.

But challenges remained, including the government’s inability to implement promised reforms, such as completing unified army command.

The US, UK and Norway – the troika backing South Sudan’s peace deal – recently said they fear the new outbreak of fighting threatens to undermine government unity.

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