15 August 2012

South Sudan Army's Drive for Professionalism

Juba — South Sudan's former rebel movement turned national army, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) is undergoing training to improve its professionalism, according to one of its high-ranking members.

The military officer in charge of SPLA's fifth division, Andrea Dominic on Tuesday told Sudan Tribune that training has been ongoing since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended the Sudanese civil war in 2005 and paved the way for South Sudanese independence in 2011.

He explained that the training of officers and non-commissioned officers has taken place domestically and overseas but that the process "requires a lot of resources" and "will need time and money".

The CPA was signed after decades war between the SPLA and Khartoum's forces. The political wing of the SPLA, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) is now South Sudan's ruling party.

Dominic warned against "emotive and generalised" condemnation of the SPLA based upon "mistakes made by individuals" insisting that it is "an institution guided by principles and code of conduct which can be used to rectify areas where weaknesses have been identified". There have been numerous allegations of misconduct by SPLA troops, including extra-judiciary killings.

The bloody conflict with Khartoum left South Sudan as a highly militarised state with a proliferation of arms. Appeasing potentially rebellious former rebel commanders and finding alternative work for troops in the fractious nation, while downsizing the SPLA, is a precarious balancing act, hence the establishment of the South Sudan Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration Commission.

Dominic explained that training is focusing on leadership skills; defence and tactics; information technology; operating and handling heavy weapons; piloting and airspace; waterways; and civil related courses such as human rights and rule of law. He also said that the army has a significant role in development as it cannot take place "without adequate security".

"The president has done his level best to create a conducive learning environment for us to benefit and it is the duty and responsibility of everyone of us to take advantage of it, and the Sudan People's Liberation Army is not an exception," said Dominic.

The national austerity measures which were implemented after South Sudan halted oil production in January in a row with Khartoum over the cost of using its infrastructure for exports.

A repercussion of these measures, according to Dominic, has been an interruption in the SPLA training programme.

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