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1st female defense minister assumes office

Author: Alhadi Hawari | Published: Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Defense Minister Angelina Teny [middle] pose for photograph with her predecessor Kuol Manyang at Bilpam on Tuesday, Mar 17, 2020 | Credit | Facebook

The first female and civilian minister of defense in South Sudan assumed her role at the military headquarters in Juba on Monday – a docket faced with numerous challenges.

Angelina Teny is among 34 national ministers President Salva Kiir named Thursday last week.

She is the new Minister of Defense and Veteran Affairs, a position allocated to her SPLM-IO peace party under the Reconstituted Transitional Government of National Unity, R-TGoNU.

“It’s very important she is the first female minister of defense as well as the first civilian minister of defense,” SSPDF, Maj.-Gen. Lul Ruai, told Eye Radio.

The handover ceremony was attended by the former minister of defense, Kuol Manyang, Army Chief of Defense Forces, Gen. Gabriel Jok, Undersecretary Maj.-Gen. Simon Anias and several other senior military officers at Bilpam.

Challenges:

Indiscipline

The September 2018 peace agreement provides for training and unification of opposition and government forces.

Also the head of the SPLM-IO committee for security and defense, one of Ms Teny’s role is to rebuild trust and develop a security sector reform strategy to merge IO and government forces and several other armed groups into a new SSPDF.

This appears to be a difficult task, given the previous mistrust among the two forces which led to renewed conflict in July 2016.

This unified national army would be capable of providing the security that the South Sudanese citizens expect and demand.

All of these forces, which are often described as tribal, have been accused of gross violation of human rights. Some observers attribute this to illiteracy.

In 2018, the United Nations accused South Sudanese government forces and allied militias of potential “war crimes” over a campaign of rape and killing that targeted civilians in opposition-held villages in the conflict-torn country.

With poor pay that soldiers receive irregularly, some members of the organized forces, especially “weak-hearted” SSPDF have resorted to night robberies.

Malpractices among officers

Soldiers have been complaining of lack basic military supplies, especially food and medicines – a situation President Salva Kiir blamed on senior officials.

In January 2019, the C-in-C said soldiers in South Sudan were hungry and unhealthy because their superiors were stealing their food.

He said the government buys food for the soldiers, but it would soon find its way to the local markets.

“Starting from General Jok and going down to all commanders of the units, I’m not happy with all of you, and I have to say it … We do bring food, but when they get to your stores, you take it to the market,” he stated.

In addition, former presidential advisor on military affairs said the number of ghost names on the army payroll may be more than that of the actual soldiers.

Daniel Awet Akot said there was no database showing details of the number of soldiers in the country. Senior officers were the beneficiaries of the ghost names.

Ms. Teny is expected to tackle these and several other problems facing the military.
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