25 February 2013

South Sudan Capable of Fighting External Aggression - Army Chief

South Sudan's army chief, Gen. James Hoth Mai on Saturday reiterated the capacity of the national army to protect the country's territorial integrity, as part of its constitutional obligation.

Gen. Hoth, while speaking at a function organised by Ngok Lual Yak community in the South Sudan capital, Juba urged politicians in the country not to inflame conflict, but rather promote peace in the new nation.

"There is reason why we should be killing ourselves while we still have issues to address together as people of one nation. We do not need to fight one another at all for whatever reason. We are all South Sudanese and I urge you all to embrace peace and live together as brothers and sisters", said the army chief.

He described South Sudan's national army as an "independent" and "loyal" force, with no political affiliation in the country.

"As an army, we do not have tribes. We do not classify into tribes. In the army, we are not Dinka. We are not Nuer. We are not Bari. We are not Mundari. We are all SPLA and our identity is South Sudan. We are all south Sudanese people. If there are people who classify us, then let them know now we do not such classification in the army", he stressed.

In an earlier interview, James Koang Chol, army fourth division commander in South Sudan's Unity state said the army will fight to protect its people and the country's territorial integrity, should Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) invade the new nation.

Chol said the SPLA forces have been monitoring operations of SAF and its allied militias in neighbouring South Kordofan state, accusing the Sudanese army of continuously bombing its territories in Jau, killing two people.

He however told Sudan Tribune that the southern army would retaliate, if provoked into war by Khartoum, as part of its mandate to protect South Sudan's territorial integrity.

The SPLA, which fought over two decades of civil war with the Sudan army (SAF), is set to become South Sudan Armed Forces (SSAF), according to the country's transitional constitution, adopted on 9 July, 2011.

To-date, South Sudan army still faces several challenges within the military, given that most of its officers still lack the basic training required to transform the force in to a professional army.

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