AUTHOR: Daniel Garang Deng | PUBLISHED: February 22, 2023
Security officers inspect weapons that had just been collected from civilians during a disarmament exercise | Credit | Courtesy
As South Sudan starts the implementation of the roadmap, the government spokesperson has reiterated that the arms embargo has been an obstacle in the previous transitional periods and will continue to be an obstacle as long as it is not lifted.
In September 2018, the SPLM regime and the opposition groups inked the revitalized peace agreement aimed at ending the civil war which erupted in December 2013.
The peace deal also required the parties in a transitional unity government to hold general elections before February 2023 – a provision they just missed due to several delays in the implementation of the key provisions and subsequent extensions of the transitional period.
On August 4, 2022, parties to the September 2018 peace deal agreed to extend it for another 24 months starting in February 21, 2023, the day when the original deal expired.
The latest extension, which commences today, will allow for unification of the armed forces, creation of a new constitution, and time to prepare for elections to avoid a return to war.
Unification and deployment being a contentious issue, the government argues that this is difficult to implement due to lack of weapons after the UN Security Council imposed arms embargo on the world’s youngest country amid violent conflict in 2018.
The UNSC Resolution 2428 directs all UN member states to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms to the territory of South Sudan.
Michael Makuei claims that though there are other challenges hampering the implementation of the pact, especially funding, the greatest obstacle of all is the arms embargo.
“Yes! We had some difficulties in the implementation of the agreement and even up to now, the international community are on our neck to deploy the forces which have been graduated,” Makuei said.
“Those whom we graduated with sticks are the ones now the international community is telling us to deploy. Okay! We will deploy them with the sticks, will they protect you?”
The Unity government has graduated the first batch of 53,000 Unified forces with stick but since their graduation in August, they have never been deployed due to lack of arms according to the government.
The government spokesperson reiterated the government’s appeal for the lifting of the ban “so that we arm these soldiers and deploy them”.
“The arms embargo is an obstacle and will continue to be an obstacle as long as that arms embargo is not lifted,” he added.
However, according to a report by the international Gun Policy organization, the estimated total number of guns – both licit and illicit – held by civilians in South Sudan is 1,255,000 in 2017, and 3,000,000 in 2013.
It revealed that the defense forces of South Sudan have 351,500 firearms.