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First South Sudanese unified forces graduate

NUF soldiers during their graduation on 30 August. (AFP via Getty Images)

South Sudan held the first graduation ceremony on 30 August for the Necessary Unified Forces (NUF) that are being formed by retraining rebel and pro-government fighters into military, police, and security personnel.

In his speech, President Salva Kiir said the NUF programme was the “most challenging and yet the most important” part of the peace agreement signed in September 2018. He said that ultimately 52,000 personnel would graduate in phases from the training centres spread across the country, with the first coming from Greater Equatoria province.

It was reported that the graduation involved a total of 21,973 personnel: 3,308 for the VIP protection force of the South Sudan People's Defence Forces (SSPDF), 4,366 for the national police, 6,315 for the National Security Service, 1,120 for the Prison Service, 3,575 for the Wildlife Service, and 3,289 for the Civil Defence Force.

“This first graduation is a long-awaited day in this country's pathway to peace,” said United Nations (UN) special envoy Nicholas Haysom. “We expect that the National Unified Forces will play a critical role in meeting the security and logistical needs for legitimate and credible elections, as provided for in the peace agreement.”

A UN Secretary General report released in May 2022 noted that the NUF programme made little progress until December 2021, when the screening of former combatants began. While it was reported that 78,500 personnel had been registered at 25 assembly/cantonment sites and training centres, sources told the UN that conditions were “extremely dire” because of the lack of food, medicine, and shelter. This resulted in constant movement of the personnel, making it difficult to determine how many had been screened or trained. The training was also reported to be rudimentary.

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