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JUBA - 13 Oct 2023

South Sudan to deploy unified forces without guns: minister

South Sudan’s Information Minister has said that the deployment of Unified Forces is set to commence later this month, albeit without weapons owing to an arms embargo.

In May 2023, The United Nations Security Council renewed the 2018 arms embargo imposed on South Sudan, banning arms sales to the country until May 31, 2024.

In August 2022, South Sudan graduated its first group of unified armed forces from former rival groups. The goal is to graduate and deploy 83,000 soldiers.

President Salva Kiir, First Vice President Riek Machar, and other political leaders have been slowly implementing a peace deal signed in 2018 to end five years of civil war. The parties to the agreement further delayed the transition period leading to the country’s first elections until December 2024.

The first batch of the unified forces graduated without firearms, with the transitional government blaming the arms embargo on South Sudan imposed by the United Nations Security Council. They carried wooden guns instead.

Speaking to reporters after the cabinet meeting in Juba on Friday, Minister Michael Makuei said: “The process of deploying the Unified Forces is ongoing, and the uniforms we received recently at the general headquarters will be used to deploy these forces. Within this month, the deployment of the trained forces will proceed, but regrettably, they will be equipped with sticks.”

Expressing the government’s frustration, Makuei emphasized that they had lobbied for the arms embargo to be lifted but to no avail. He said, “We have been patiently waiting to see if the arms embargo could be lifted, allowing us to deploy these forces with proper arms. However, as of now, there has been no progress in this regard. Consequently, we have no choice but to deploy them with sticks.”

He continued, “For an extended period, we have been appealing and advocating for various measures to persuade our international partners to lift the arms embargo, but unfortunately, no one has heeded our pleas.”

In 2021, a US official told a local radio station that South Sudan does not need more weapons. He said the country can still graduate and deploy the unified forces without purchasing new arms.