TGoNU: Resolve Dispute over the Cantonment Sites

By: Mabor Maker Dhelbeny, JUBA, MAY/16/2016, SSN;

In the context of the Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCISS) 2015, which provides the life span of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) as thirty (30) months, therefore, the parties to the Agreement must have come up with proper resolution of forces to be cantoned in former Western Equatoria as well as Western Bahr al-Ghazal States before the intervention of AU (African Union) MVM (Monitoring and Verification Mechanism) or CTSAMM (Ceasefire & Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism), the JMCC (Joint Military Ceasefire Commission) and UNMISS (United Nations Mission In South Sudan).

Because these are the bodies tasked to conduct the activities of cantonment sites, monitoring the compliance and implementation of permanent ceasefire. The word “Cantonment” seems to have originated from the French word – ‘canton’ meaning corner or district but it carries the same description of site or area where forces or troops are usually encamped for a certain period of time.

In a meeting conducted by the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) two (2) months ago before the formation of TGONU’s cabinet, the GRSS (Government of the Republic of South Sudan) and the SPLM/A-IO (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army–In Opposition) have disagreed over cantonment sites in Equatoria and Bahr El-Ghazal States.

According to Mr. Taban Deng Gai of the SPLM/A-IO advance team leader, “We have suggested about five (5) places in Equatoria and about four (4) places for cantonment in Greater Bahr El-Ghazal but…we could not resolve this because the government is refusing…”

In my own view, the ARCISS is silent in other areas such as Western Equatoria and Bahr El-Ghazal States about the sites of cantoning forces, although it partly provides that “…any other forces related to conflict in other areas that are declared by the warring parties (i.e. the GRSS & the SPLM/A-IO) during the Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangement (PCTSA) workshop”.

Such ‘other areas’ however, would not be assumed as Western Equatoria and Bahr El-Ghazal States in its interpretation unless declared in September 2015 workshop by the PCTSA. In that workshop held at Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, the parties submitted the lists of declared cantonment/assembly sites to the IGAD Mediators which should have been released or published to the public so that those sites of cantonment agreed by the parties are known.

The question which remains to be asked is that: “Whether or not the parties had agreed that there was a conflict in other areas such as Western Equatoria and Bahr El-Ghazal States which they have declared during the PCTA workshop?”

In the PCTSA workshop convened by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Mediators in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the parties agreed on the following:
–(1) Declare the disposition of forces down to the level of battalion;
–(2) Establishment of demilitarized areas;
–(3) Withdrawal of routes and;
–(4) Cantonment sites;
–(5) Determine the size of forces to provide security in Juba, Bor, Malakal, Bentiu and other areas …; and
–(6) Ratify implementation matrix and ceasefire master map (Art. 1.8 of the ARCISS, 2015).

Since the size of forces to provide security in Juba had already been determined as 3,000 Joint Integrated Police and 2910 military from both – i.e. the South Sudan Army in Opposition and the SPLA, therefore the parties are left with Bor, Malakal, Bentiu and other areas.

Of course, Article 2 sub-article 2 of the ARCISS, 2015, stipulates that, “the warring parties agree that the forces that shall be cantoned shall be those forces previously in combat in Juba, Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile States, and any other forces related to the conflict in other areas that are declared by the warring parties during the Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Workshop”.

The fact that Juba has been mentioned in the Agreement as one of the cantonment sites should not be construed as greater Equatoria but it was the place where the conflict of December 15 2013 broke out.

The GRSS’ insistence on resolving the outstanding issues which includes cantonment sites in the said areas claimed by the SPLM/A-IO will make war particularly in western part of the country to intensify and hence peace will remain a fragile peace.

At this critical moment, AU intervention would be needed in case if the parties fail to agree on the cantonment sites and to determine the dimension of military forces to be cantoned.

Unless the cantonment sites are resolved through consensus by the parties so that the protection and security of former combatants on the sites need to be given to the UNMISS as its primary responsibility, such responsibility must be authorized by the GRSS first after proper mechanisms are put in place because UNMISS forces are no longer being trusted either by the citizens or the government.

For instance, during the implementation of Burundi’s Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, UN was not allowed to have access to the cantonment site in Muyange, until the UN joint field mission was organized with following findings: (a) The South African Force (SAF) under the African Mission In Burundi (AMIB) is responsible for the protection and security of ex-combatants on the cantonment site; and (b) The World Health Organization is tasked with support to health services as provided through the medical team of SAF, because the needs the former combatants expressed were related to the improvement of health services and a permanent medical team on the site and additional food provisions.

The Arusha Accord however establishes the Joint Ceasefire Commission (JCC) as a forum which brings together the Burundi Armed Forces (FAB) and various armed groups to oversee the implementation of ceasefire Agreements of 7 October and 2 December 2002 between the TGOB and CNDD-FDD.

But one of the JCC responsibilities include monitoring the parties and investigating their violations of ceasefire agreements, deciding on cantonment areas and number of armed combatants to be placed in them (Nelson Alusala, January, 2004).

Significantly, the activities of forces that are expected to be assembled or cantoned will be conducted by the MVM, AU, UNMISS and Parties in order to identify and register the personnel, weapons and equipment accountability, registration of weapons and ammunitions; screening of elderly, sick, wounded, disable and underage soldiers; re-organization during disarmament, demobilization and re-integration programmes.

All forces that shall be cantoned shall receive non-military logistical supply such as food, shelter and access to medical care (See Art. 2.1 of the ARCISS, 2015). Therefore, the cantonment of all combatants would help the TGoNU in terms of absorbing them into the national army – SPLA or establishing the Joint Integrated Police (JIP) in order to provide security and protection in Juba City and other major towns in South Sudan.

And those (combatants) who would be remaining in the cantonment sites would be subjected to the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) process. This had happened some years back between the Transitional Government of Burundi (TGOB), led by the former President Domitien Ndayizeye and National Council for the Defence of Democracy / Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CN DD-FDD) of Mr Pierre Nkurunziza, currently the Burundian President under the Arusha Peace & Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi signed on August 28, 2000 and Dar-Es-Salaam Protocol on Power Sharing 2008.

Finally, it seems that the SPLM/A-IO forces have done regroupment in the nine (9) areas mentioned in Equatoria and Bahr el-Ghazal regions before they seek permission from the GRSS to concede cantonment sites.

This demonstrates that the SPLM/A-IO might have contracted an organization or UN agency to resupply all forces with logistics support of non-lethal nature such as food, water, clothing and medical care during the regroupment processes, pending the dispute over cantonment sites to be resolved.

By averting the continuation of hostilities in breach of permanent ceasefire and cessation of hostilities agreements, the TGoNU must resolve the dispute over cantonment sites in greater Equatoria and Bahr el-Ghazal regions as an urgent security challenge.

To paraphrase what I wrote previously in one of my articles (under the title: “CTSAMM to observe security ahead of the formation of TGoNU) that, “the parties therefore need to revisit the Agreement in order to resolve the problem of forces that assembled themselves in the former Western Equatoria and Western Bahr el-Ghazal States as claimed by the SPLM/A-IO Advance Team to be their forces. The interpretation of “all forces that are previously in combat” should not confused the parties with rules of IHL (International Humanitarian Law) and Geneva Conventions in their minds, nor should it be used as a political leverage to derail the implementation.

This brings me to the point that the party who alleged the presence of its forces in the said areas for cantonment, must prove it by giving the date before the signing of the compromise peace agreement on the 17th and 26th August, 2015 respectively.

Therefore the question that begs itself is that: “When did the forces, claimed by the SPLM/A-IO leadership wage their rebellion in both former Western of Equatoria and Bahr el-Ghazal States?” If these forces waged their rebellion after the ARCISS has been signed, subsequently followed by the declaration of PCTSA workshop, then they will not be granted the benefit of cantonment.”

The Writer is a Practising Lawyer and Legal Consultant in Juba and he can be reached for comment(s) via his email address:


  1. Eli says:

    In the first place I would like to bring to your attention that all the SPLA-IO that are based in Equatoria, majority of them are Equatorians, they are not solely Nuer soldiers as you may assumed, these are the forces who rebelled post Dec. 15 2013, they are mixtures of former SPLA IG disgruntled forces, new recruits, Arrow Boys, pro-reformists, other political armed wings etc.
    Secondly; you people who stayed in Juba must understand that things will never go back to the way it used to be before the war of 2013 broke out, this is a new era in which either we all embrace reforms or go back to war.
    Third; the reason for cantonment in Equatoria is to protect unarmed civilians against Dinka elements who are roaming the countryside with their cows. Paul Malong’s militias are looting and torturing citizens based on tribal affiliations and fabricated stories, the fact is in Equaroria even SPLA-IG only protects Dinka citizens and their cows to destroy civilian cultivated crops. Those who joined SPLA-IO were forced to flee for their lives, (e.g. like myself and others). We found no choice but to look onto an alternative, besides they are tired of being humiliated by SPLA-IG. So, no matter what your argument entails the majority of people found in rural Equatoria are Equatorians and it’s in the best interest of the population that they are protected by their sons. SPLA IG will have to give up the security of the locals to the local population as above mentioned. After all SPLA-IO who are more respected in Eqautoria than those Dinka crooks, we are better alternatives to protect our own civilian populations.
    Fourth; preventing SPLA-IO forces that were always based in Equatoria from officially setting up “cantonment” bases and not be harassed could soon take us back to an imminent war. And mind you, this time we in Equatoria are better armed as opposed to pre-2013. We are ready to flush Kirr’s IG and his cattle cohorts out of Juba once and for all if no agreement is reached soon.
    Last but not least;
    “Equatoria is our land and we will never let it go. Equatoria is our flesh and blood; we will guard it with our souls. Equatoria is our crown we will forever decorate our heads with it. Equatoria is our beginning and our end; we will defend it until the last man standing.”

  2. Dear Commentor/Respondent Mr. Eli

    I dislike the way you have said in your comment in this peace that was signed between the warring SPLM ruling party President Kirr and rebel leader Riak Machar.This peace is not about Equatoria problem! This peace about people the South Sudanese problem in whole in the country in the government! We are now keeping our eyes closely as much as possible to the enemies of peace in the South Sudan president Salva Kirr,and his henchmen in his tribe in Dinka especially for those who are Misleading Blindly in wrong turn on the road!

    To me,there is nothing wrong on cantoment issue at all! The Juba government under the current incumbent administration of President Salva Kirr,should be told frankly speaking yes and no that when Addis Ababa Accord,
    was signed in the year 1972,there were soldiers in the Anya Anya one remained in their places in the bush until they were absorbed afterward in the Sudanese National Armed Force under the presidency of the Sudanese President Mohamed Jafar Nimery and his countertpart in his leadership in the war in the bush his Excellency Lt.General Joseph Lagu.

    The Juba government should never and ever say there are no cantonments in those areas such as Bahr El Ghazal,Western Equatoria,and Eastern EquatoriaThose areas have been on rebellion! They had rebelled against Presidency of president Salva Kirr administration.

    Why Juba government wants to hide the facts from people in the publlc??? I AM LOOKING AFTER THE TRUTH! I AM NOT SUPPOSE TO LOOK FOR POLITICAL GAMES!!!!!!! I want genuine peace!!! Again, I want genuine DEMOCRACY!!!!

    The enemies of peace should embrace peace! But they never and ever embrace fight!!!! THEY ARE WELL DONE ONCE AND FOR ALL!!!! Thank you! Back to you to the audience in the forum South Sudan Nation Discussion Board!

    Ongelet Village,Torit South Sudan,Africa

  3. Gatdarwich says:


    You said it all patriot!

    The SPLA-IO forces have been operating and stationed in both Equatoria and Bhar El Ghazal region since the beginning of war in December 15, 2013.

    The SPLA-IG’s refusal to acknowledge this undeniable fact is nothing but a tactical stance to continue waging war in both regions period

  4. mading says:

    I hope Nuer young men will not get fool again by internet warriors like Eli, Toria , and Garwach..

  5. Mr. Mading, the agreement signed by all the parties must be implemented as it is. No “lava AU douran”. Remember to follow every article in the agreement. There will be no justification, once you the DINKA ,refuse – milking to listen to the will of the people of south Sudan. The tide of the next war might turn against you.

  6. alex says:

    Its good they have been taught a good lesson in Bahar El Gazal. In Mundiri was a chemical wapon today in Bahar El Gazal is JEM what a catastrophe in military defeat. Our people should know there is law and order in S. Sudan. When did the unknown gun men become splm in opp? They must confess the brutal killings in Juba, Kajokeji road, Bor road, Yei road, Munduri road and Wau road. The splm in opp must now acknowledge that, barbaric killing of innocent people make them criminals. Why kill innocent people when you are fighting the government? What has our people have to do with the government. So Eli be aware for us whose relatives have been killed by your thugs will hold you responsible. All the time you were claiming unknown gun men so it is now good we know who are the killers of our relatives. You kill innocent people to get recognised. I just want the government to continue to clear those criminals as it has done in Bahar El Gazal. No more arrow boys because they have sign peace with government. We are only left with criminals in equatoria and they should be disarmed. If necessary by military force.

  7. abai okwahu says:

    folks, kiir is firmly in control and no body (au, igad, un, etc.) will ever dissuade or prevent him from carrying out his agenda of domination. machar’s camp is already frustrated and thinking of forming a separate or new party. expect more decrees from the ‘dear leader’ soon, and the transitional government of national uniity go to hell.

  8. bismark says:

    The whole purpose of rejecting the establishment of cantonment areas for SPLA/IO in other areas other than Upper Nile region is to belittle the people’s movement and claim it is a regional affair and not a big national issue. However I believe Kiir’s establishment will eventually fail in its endeavour to project this devilish notion to the world. The objectives of SPLA/IO are national and the people behind them are drawn from all corners of South Sudan. The fighters too are from all parts of South Sudan. What is taking place is a battle of ideas that emanated from military confrontation when Kiir rejected to establish a conducive playing ground for those ideas to compete. Now is that he should steer the nation peacefully for people to choose what they want in their lives socially, economically and politically after all the country belongs to all the people who live in it. This idea of ethnic di supremacy introduced right from Mr Abel Alier’s era must be buried in order for South Sudan to exist in peace.

    • alex says:

      If these unknown gun men killing Innocent civilians now turned to be splm in opp, then you have to confess.
      But if you deny then we will continue to assume the unknown gun men are criminals.
      So let splm in opp come out clearly about the issue of the unknown gun men. The ball is in splm in opp hands to clear themselves. It is not logical when you are oppressed and you go and kill a fellow oppressed. Someone must account for those killings. It not about jumping here and there . We need splm in opp to be honest about their acts.

  9. Toria says:

    You don’t know what you are talking about. The unknown gunmen are the Kirr’s and Malong’s jenge militia crooks roaming in the villages killing innocent civilians. They are all known and they will suffer the consequences of their ill actions.

    • alex says:

      if the people killing people in this area ate Kiir’s militia then there is no need for splm in opp to ask for cantonment sites in Equatoria and Bahar el Ghazal because these areas are being occupied by Kiir militias.

  10. JAC Ramba says:

    The issue of the cantonment areas for SPLM-IO can only be tackled in the context of the August 2015 compromise peace agreement, which clearly leaves it to the SPLM-IO to declare the numbers and locations of its forces. President Salva Kiir should not our time discussing the obvious. The fact that he and his supporters are opposed to the signed ARCSS is everyone’s knowledge. However the fact that the international community was able to force him (Kiir) to sign this agreement in Juba and not in Addis Ababa and right in the watch of all his strong military aides and generals together with his infamous JCE, goes a long to confirm that in every step of implementing this agreement, he still cry and utter all kinds of threats and rejections, but at the end of the day the same international community is still capable of bringing pressure to bear eventually forcing to submission.
    With the international community firm behind the full implementation of this peace agreement to the letter and spirit and without any renegotiation, the peace loving people of South Sudan should lie assured that President Salva Kiir has no choice but to allow for the total implementation of this compromise peace agreement.
    Nonetheless, should the enemies of peace agreement choose to go back to war in the name of protecting their tribal power base, then the rest of the peace loving South Sudanese will be left with no choice but to seek the support of the international community and all the peace loving people of world and fight to protect this ARCSS.

  11. Toria says:

    That’s why those innocent people in the villages of Equatoria need the protection of a well behaved army. But not bandits like the Kirr/Maaong crooked looters. Go and tell them to go and protect suffering people in Aweil, Gogrial, Rumbek, NBG, Abiye etc where conflicts are more centered. In Equatoria the only conflicts are brought by Dinkas. Your people are killing each other every day like insects in your villages. They are rustling each other’s cows and yet they have no food to feed the civilians while greedy coward warlords are fattening their bellies and growing big buttocks in Juba. If Kirr and Malong’s tribal militias don’t get the hell out of Equatoria then hell will break loose again very soon.

    Alex we all know you are the benefactor of looted resources, but that stolen money will run out soon.
    Allow me to refresh your memory if you haven’t read them I leave you with the following sites :
    What a shameful that your king killer Kirr (KKK) can travel everywhere in the world but not his hometown to see the situation for himself? Is this what you call president?
    Salva Kirr couldn’t even finish one hospital that he started fifteen years ago in Gogrial? His hometown have no school, dirty water, not roads, just a hopeless situation , while millions of petro dollars are rotting in his palace in J1? I wonder why didn’t his own village people disown him? He’s a disgrace to his mother, shame on his father for raising a failure.

    But that’s because KKK’s family members some are in J1 while his children are living in villas bought by our stolen money on foreign lands.
    Open your eyes Alex, don’t just support because you are a fellow jenge.
    Fyi, I have never been to Australia, if I get the chance to go to a developed nation, I will forget about the everlasting conflicts of SS. Unfortunately I am right here in the backyard rubbing shoulders with my people.

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