S. Sudan cabinet approves SPLA-IO forces cantonment in Equatoria and Bahr el Ghazal

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May 27, 2016 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s transitional government of national unity (TGoNU) in its cabinet sitting on Friday has unexpectedly passed a resolution approving establishment of cantonment areas for the forces of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) in Greater Equatoria and Greater Bahr el Ghazal.

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A batch of the SPLA-IO forces after arrival in Juba, 1 April, 2016 (ST Photo)

Micheal Makuei Lueth, information minister, told reporters after the council of ministers meeting that cantonment areas will be identified in Greater Equatoria region for the SPLA-IO forces under the commander-in-chief, First Vice President, Riek Machar.

He said the task will be carried out by the Joint Monitoring Ceasefire Committee (JMCC), a body established under the August 2015 peace agreement to monitor the implementation of the security arrangements across the country.

JMCC membership is composed of members from the rival parties and partners in the peace agreement.

As for Greater Bahr el Ghazal, Lueth said the JMCC will also assess the level of the SPLA-IO forces in that region to determine whether to identify cantonment areas as well.

He further said cantonment sites for the SPLA-IO forces are yet to be identified in Greater Upper Nile region by the JMCC despite the fact that the agreement earlier approved establishment of the assembly areas in the oil producing region.

The issue of the cantonment of opposition forces had been contentious, with minister Lueth earlier vowing not to allow the SPLA-IO forces to be assembled in Equatoria and Bahr el Ghazal regions.

However, the breakthrough to establish opposition’s cantonment areas in Equatoria and probably in Bahr el Ghazal was reached in the cabinet meeting chaired by President Salva Kiir and attended by his first deputy, Machar, among other cabinet members.

The information minister, in the statement broadcasted on South Sudan Television (SSTV) also revealed that the matter had heated debates that took several hours.

Lueth further said those who will be allowed to assemble in Equatoria will be the soldiers who took part in the Juba clashes of December 2013. He did not however say how to identify those who took part in the clashes, but added all must report to the cantonment areas with their guns as one of the criteria.

The minister also accused armed men who claimed to be members of the SPLA-IO for causing insecurity on the roads, killing a number of people.

He said a security report presented to the cabinet indicated that insecurity was deteriorating in the country.

“Security situation is discouraging, it is deteriorating,” he said.

He added that the First Vice President, Machar, who chairs the SPLM-IO and commands the SPLA-IO was directed by the cabinet to control his forces in Equatoria region as well as his commander, General Johnson Olony, in Upper Nile region.

The minister also said the SPLM-IO leadership was directed to order his forces to open up supply routes and allow governors of Greater Upper Nile, appointed on the basis of 28 states, to reach their areas.

Lueth also added that the commander-in-chief of the SPLA, President Salva Kiir, and the commander-in-chief of the SPLA-IO, Riek Machar, were also directed to order the release of prisoners of war being held by the either side.

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