By Deng Machol
Juba – South Sudanese opposition groups are optimistic and satisfied with the positive step toward the unification of forces after peace partners agreed unanimously to establish 25 cantonment sites for opposition forces in the country.
This was reached on Monday during the meeting of Joint Defense Board (JDB), JTSC, JMCC, SDSR and the Observers in Juba. This decision came pursuant to Article 184.108.40.206 of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan where cantonment and barracking of all the armed forces is mentioned.
The forces to be cantoned are; Sudan People Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM-IO) and South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) forces.
SPLA- IO deputy military spokesman, Col. Lam Paul Gabriel said in a statement that the remaining 15 cantonment sites will be established in the second phase to make a total of 40 sites.
He added that each cantonment site will have a maximum of 3,750 combatants and a minimum of not less than a force of a battalion as stipulated in the revitalized peace pact.
“The Joint Defense Board (JDB) will soon give directives to all forces to report to the nearest cantonment sites and barracks so that they can be registered, screened and sent to the unified training,” Gabriel said.
Opposition military spokesman revealed that the reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) have been directed to establish a base in Panyume by the middle of February.
Paul reiterated that the SPLA-IO remains committed to the implementation of the Transitional Security Arrangements as per the signed revitalized peace deal on the resolution of the conflict in South Sudan, saying it was time for peace implementation as opposed to conflicts.
President Kiir and the key opposition groups leaders signed the revitalized peace pact on September 12, in an attempt to end the five – years old conflict that has killed nearly 400,000 people and displaced 4 million people from their homes.
The latest pact is also returning Dr. Riek Machar as the first vice president, a position which he held for years before 2013 conflict and again in 2016.
However, the observers described as a ‘great milestone’ toward the revitalized peace agreement implementation. The issue of the cantonments was one of the logger-head in the fragile peace deal in 2015.
The parties have agreed to establish cantonment sites for SPLM-IO and SSOA forces based on former South Sudan ten (10) states
Agreed cantonment Sites
In Unity, the opposition will be based in Pakur, two kilometers west of Rubkona town, Mirmir, and Bong while government forces will be based in Bentiu, Leer, Mayendit and Mayom.
In Western Equatoria, the opposition will base in Rirangu Sue in Yambio, and Ngiri while government forces will remain where they are now in Yambio town, Tambura, Mundri and Maridi.
In Central Equatoria, the opposition will base in Panyume, Wunaleit, Lobojo in Lobonok while government will base in Juba, Yei, Kajo-keji, Terekeka, Mogeri, Kaya and Thertenya.
In Eastern Equatoria, the opposition forces will base in Ashwa in Pageri, Lorere/Nyara and Nawokitbong in Kapoeta. Government forces will stay in Torit, kapoeta, Magwe, Nimule, Ikotos, narus, New Site and New Kush.
In Jonglei state, the opposition will base in Pulturuk, Pieri, Ker in Ayod, Dor in Fangak and Weibuony. Government troops will be cantoned in Malual Choat, Pibor, Likwangoli, Gumruk, Namam, Buma, Marroa, Kethngor, Pochalla, Duk, Ayod, Waat, Yuai, Pajut and Gadiang
In Upper Nile, the opposition troops will base in Torpuot, Turow, Wichpanyikang, Thuorgwang, Lieng or Khor Yabus while government troops will base in Malakal, Doleib, Nasir, galacel, Pagak, Renk, Lelo, Kodok, Kaka, Wadakona, Maban Poch, Gopa, Chatha, Jamam, Molbuok, Atam, Dukduk, Chumudi, Halga, Kuek, Gabat and Uwachi.
In Western Bahr Al-Ghazal, the opposition troops will base in Dulu, Busheri while government forces will be in Wau town, Raja, Kitkit, Timza and Bor Madina.
In Northern Bahr Al-Ghazal, the opposition forces will base in Malek Gumel whereas the government will be cantoned at Wunyik in Aweil.