By John Agok
Columns of Soldiers and Police officers marching to martial music as President Salva Kiir and his entire cabinet watched on in amusement was the scene on Tuesday morning at the Dr. John Garang Mausoleum in Juba.
The transitional unity government finally accomplished the graduation of the first batch of 22,000 unified forces out of the total of 83,000 forces.
Amantiel Buong, a 24- year-old national security officer among those passed out from Mangala cantonment site, said he was relieved to have finally ended the harsh suffering endured by trainees in the cantonment sites.
“We persevered amid challenges in the three years we have spent at Mangala cantonment site. We faced shortage of food, clean water, medicines and shelter,” Buong told The Juba Echo.
Boung is lucky to have been among the graduates who will now take charge of security during the ongoing transitional period that will elapse in February 2025.
The graduation of the first batch was meant to have been accomplished in August last year.
Soldiers at Gorom training centre (Filed Photo)
“I am very optimistic that we will have a stable country with the national army in place, the issue of insecurity will come to an end and we will enjoy the dividends of peace,” Maker Thon, 30 year old soldier trained in Gorom training centre said.
Amos Abiel, a graduate from Rajaf training centre, said the passing out of the first batch of security forces marks major milestone in implementation of the once sticky security arrangements.
“I am very hopeful that our country will experience stability and development since the most difficult part of the peace agreement under chapter. 1 is now realized,” Abiel said.
The Reconstituted Joint Monitoring Evaluation Commission (R-JMEC) which monitors the 2018 revitalized peace agreement previously said the lack of necessary political will and funds were to blame for the delay in graduation of the forces.
The lack of food, medicines, clean water and shelter amid intermittent fighting among government and opposition forces forced a sizable number of security personnel in the past to flee cantonment and training centers.
Nema Dugolous, 30 –year- old wheat trader in Juba, said the graduation of the unified forces is a sign of positive progress toward peace and stability in the country.
“We have been waiting for long to have a national army that represents all 64 tribes of South Sudan, we have been suffering from insecurity caused by inter-communal violence,” Dugolous said.
“I want the governemnt to cater for the welfare of soldiers, train them to be professional in order for the army to be trusted by citizens. We need forces that can protect the sovereignity and integrity of our country,” Dugolous added.
Pitia John, a law student at the University of Juba University, called on the transitional government to also complete implementing institutional, economic and constitutional reforms.
“I call on our government to fully implement the agreement since the most difficult part is now done, we expect implementation of institutional reforms and constitutional review process,” John said.