South Sudan: President restructures nation’s army

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South Sudan President Salva Kirr made several changes to the country’s army on Monday night – including major leadership changes.

The reshuffle puts resolutions agreed upon in June, by the fifth SPLA Command Council Conference, into effect. Most notably, the president himself now sits at the helm of the country’s army as commander-in-chief.

 

South Sudan’s army restructured

South Sudan’s military now consists of three separate forces: a ground force, air force and navy units. Presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny says the revised structure will share responsibility between three officials, rather than a single person.

“It will make the SPLA effective because there will be a shared responsibility instead of putting them under one person,” he said at a press conference.

Analysts suggest the changes come as part of Salva Kirr’s efforts to rebrand South Sudan’s army as a professional unit, following criticism from within that the SPLA has forgotten its roots.

Deng Bol Aruai Bol, chairman of the Red Army Foundation – a nonpolitical organisation set up by veteran SPLA soldiers who fought for South Sudan’s independence – says the army has lost sight of its vision.

“The SPLA we have today is not purely the SPLA we used to have in 2005, where everyone was loyal, everyone has a common purpose, everyone cared about civilians,” he said.

 

Divided military; divided nation

Ethnic divides are prevalent in South Sudanese politics, creating an internal conflict within the country’s military, which largely contributed to the outbreak of civil war in South Sudan and continues to hamper its failed peace process.

Deng Bol Aruai Bol says the army needs to resolve these divides before progress can be made.

“I think there is need to identify all soldiers, all SPLA cadres, bring them together and organise them. When you organise them, you start training the new ones so that they have the doctrine of the SPLM/A — that these are soldiers that are friendly to civilians,” he said.

 

Featured image: By Al Jazeera English – Kiir awaits, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17499385

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.