Thousands of fighters, including former rebels from rival camps in South Sudan’s civil war, have been integrated into the country’s army in a long-awaited graduation ceremony which took place on Tuesday.
A total of nearly 22,000 men and women, representing the major parties as well as the South Sudan Opposition Alliance, took part in the proceedings.
Salva Kiir Mayardit, the president of South Sudan, and the UN representative in the country praised the new developments.
According to Salva Kiir Mayardit, “Of all the chapters of the agreement, the graduation of the unified forces under chapter two has been the most difficult and yet the most important.”
“Over two hundred of your comrades have died in the eighteen training centres, some died because of disease and no medication, some died because of hunger as food was not available”, added Riek Machar, Vice President and opposition leader.
The ceremony came just weeks after the country’s leaders, who had been appointed to lead a transitional government, announced that they would stay in power for another two years past an agreed-upon deadline, causing international concern.
Since its independence from Sudan in 2011, the world’s youngest nation has lurched from crisis to crisis, dealing with flooding, hunger, ethnic violence, and political upheaval.