Usually cloudy Malakal in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state was bright and sunny yesterday, as it celebrated an important milestone—the graduation of 7,500 officers drawn from varied state security sectors as part of the world’s newest nation’s Necessary Unified Forces.
A vital element of the 2018 peace deal that brokered a tenuous peace among conflicting parties and brought respite to a country devastated by civil war, progress on this peace benchmark is key to holding free, fair, and credible elections, says Nicholas Haysom, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for South Sudan and Head of the UN Peacekeeping mission, UNMISS.
“In the recovery from conflict, the first challenge is always to create national institutions and of those institutions, the most important is a unified army,” said the top UN official.
“It is critical for countries emerging conflict to have a security apparatus that is reflective of the country’s unified national identity,” he continued.
It hasn’t been easy for South Sudan to begin achieving this critical milestone as ongoing peace processes have been fraught with repeated delays and political impasses.
As the country’s partner for peace, UNMISS has been logistically supporting the Government of South Sudan in organizing these meaningful events.
In Malakal, peacekeeping engineers from India worked shoulder-to-shoulder with state government officials and the South Sudan National Police Service (SSNPS) to prepare a 60,000 square meter parade ground in advance of yesterday’s graduation ceremony, which was attended by Lieutenant-General Mohan Subramanian, the mission’s Force Commander.
Speaking at the event, Force Commander Subramanian congratulated newly unified security personnel.
“This is the beginning of a wider security sector reform across South Sudan and I urge you to take your roles as ambassadors of a stable country seriously so that all citizens can reap the benefits of a professional security apparatus,” stated the Lieutenant-General.
His sentiments were echoed by Christian Mikala, Acting Head of the UNMISS Field Office in Upper Nile.
“This graduation is integral to the nation building process. The Necessary Unified Forces are expected to rise above all divides and anchor the legal framework of the nation. In Upper Nile we need to do this quickly to shore up peace gains that all of you have worked so hard for,” stated Mr. Mikala.
For his part, Presidential Advisor Tut Gatluak Maname encouraged the fresh graduates to embrace unity and peace. “Peace should be your motto in Upper Nile. We are all aware that this state has suffered from different logistic and security challenges. Moving forward, I am hopeful that insecurity will be a thing of the past,” he said.
The colorful parade was attended by community members, many of whom felt it was a ray of hope for a more peaceful, prosperous future.
“I believe that unified forces will make a positive difference to our lives here in Upper Nile. We have suffered from conflict and climate change immensely. Seeing women in the ranks of security officers makes me hopeful that our voices, as women, will be included as our country holds elections,” revealed Rebecca Awal Deng, a women’s representative from Malakal.
A national security apparatus could reduce repeated cycles of violence in this young nation which have left more than 2 million people displaced and led to a massive loss of life as well as untold misery for communities.
In this regard, the finalization of deployment plans and a move towards the second phase to enable these unified forces to contribute to intercommunal harmony remains urgently needed.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).