South Sudan on Wednesday said the recent restructuring of the top echelons of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) is within the 2015 peace agreement.
It has however started the professionalisation process of the army that has struggled to shed off the guerilla character within its ranks.
President Salva Kiir’s spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told newsmen that the SPLA would now have an air force, infantry and riverine units besides the leadership changes that created the army leadership council headed by the president, the Defense Minister and the Chief of Defense Forces.
“The commander in chief is the president, second is the defense minister and third the chief of defense forces.
“These are part of reforms prescribed in the peace agreement,’’ Ateny said.
Ateny has said the name of the SPLA remains the same in spite of the changes that have been effected in its command and leadership structure.
The now chief of defense forces used to report directly to the president skipping the defence minister, which reportedly caused animosity and bad working relations between the former army chief Paul Malong and Defense Minister Kuol Manyang.
Malong was sacked recently and replaced by James Ajongo at the helm of the South Sudanese army, which for over three years has engaged in counter-insurgency operations against SPLA-in opposition (SPLA-IO) rebels.
South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between President Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar led to fighting that pitied mostly Dinka ethnic soldiers loyal to Kiir against Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.
The 2015 peace agreement to end the violence was again violated in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital forcing the rebel leader Machar to flee into exile.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced over millions others from their homes.