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US Backs Former Sudan Rebels’ Transformation into Professional Army

Southern Sudanese have reportedly welcomed the unveiling of a new interim headquarters for ex-rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) as a significant push in the right direction. This comes after the United States government supported the former rebels in putting up the building complex to facilitate their work as they prepare to be integrated into the national army. The U.S. government says it strongly supports full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which effectively ended decades of civil war between the north and south.

Joan Mower of the US State Department’s Sudan Programs Group tells reporter Peter Clottey that the U.S supports the transformation of the former rebels into a professional army.

“It’s the headquarters of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the compound is outside of Juba, which is the capital of South Sudan. And the United States is supporting the SPLA as it tries to transform itself from a formerly guerrilla army into a professional military operation that has very high standards, with the ultimate goal that the SPLA and the Sudan government would unite into a joint integrated unit and overall provide peace for the people of Sudan,” Mower pointed out.

She said US support of the SPLA would not undermine its relationship with Khartoum.

“Absolutely not. The transformation of the SPLA, which was a guerrilla force that fought the central Sudanese government for 21 years until a peace agreement was signed in January 2005, and this peace agreement known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, actually call for the United States and its international partners to support the professionalization of the SPLA. Ultimately, it also calls for the creation of joint integrated units, which would be comprised of officers and soldiers from the Sudan armed services and the SPLA, working together in unison to protect the people of Sudan,” she said.

Mower reiterated the US government’s support for the full implementation of the CPA agreement, which ended the country’s civil war.

“We hope so. The comprehensive agreement, as you know, was one of the historic landmark peace agreements between the north and the south. They have been at war for 21 years, more than two million people have been killed in a very violent conflict. And when that ended with CPA, we the United States again with our international partners were supportive of its elements. And we have called repeatedly for the implementation of the CPA. Part of this implementation involves professionalization of the army, creation of joint integrated unit, calls for census, elections in 2009, creation of government of national unity, obviously. We think is an excellent framework if implemented properly. It will have a historic effect on Sudan,” Mower noted.