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Defence Minister hopes to unify forces ‘as soon as possible’

Author: Garang Abraham | Published: Friday, March 20, 2020

Angelina Teny, South Sudan's first female Minister of Defence sits during the swearing-in ceremony of the Cabinet at the J1 in Juba, on March 16, 2020. Credit//Peter Louis/AFP via Getty Images

South Sudan’s first-ever female and civilian Minister of Defence and Veterans Affairs says she will work hard in collaboration with her staff to ensure a unified national army is established in the shortest time possible.

Angelina Teny assumed her new role in the government last week. She replaced General Kuol Manyang Juuk.

She is among 34 ministers that make up the cabinet of the new transitional government of national unity.

Her optimism in the most challenging role is derived from her belief of “working together” with military officers in implementing the security sector reforms envisioned in the revitalized peace deal that ended 5 years of conflicts between her movement, SPLM-IO and the government.

“We are going to be working together not as separate but as one government to see it the unification process is achieved smoothly as soon as possible,” Angelina Teny told the gathering during her welcoming ceremony at Bilpam on Tuesday.

Experts and activists believe Ms Teny’s test of leadership lies in her ability to rebuild trust and develop a security sector reform strategy to merge SPLM-IO, other opposition forces and the government forces into a new national army, SSPDF.

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

But with rampant indiscipline and poor pay that soldiers receive irregularly, some members of the organized forces, especially “weak-hearted” soldiers have resorted to robbery and extortion -even in the capital, Juba, where the RTGoNU seats.

Also read: https://eyeradio.org/sspdf-warns-soldiers-against-illegal-checkpoints/

In addition, former presidential advisor on Military Affairs, Daniel Awet, said the number of ghost names on the army payroll may be more than that of the actual soldiers.

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.

Read related story: https://eyeradio.org/1st-female-defense-minister-assumes-office/

But Angelina Teny underscores that they can rise above the challenges if the government works as a collective.

“When presidency seat, we will have directives but it will depend upon us in this Ministry [of Defense] to make sure that every soldier in every cantonment or barrack is catered for,” she stressed.

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.

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