SPLA to SSPDF: What does the changing of the SPLA name mean?

Posted: August 3, 2017 by PaanLuel Wël in Commentary, Contributing Writers, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers, Philip Thon Aleu

By Philip Thon Aleu, Juba, South Sudan

president salva kiir

August 3, 2017 (SSB) — Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) has to be called South Sudan People’s Defence Force (SSPDF) according to the Command Council. This is the first time the South Sudanese army will be reflecting the name of the world youngest nation. There is the mixed reaction from devoted supporters and members of the SPLA – a name synonymous with the liberation of South Sudan.

To proponents of the SSPDF as a name for the national army, this was long overdue. Some members of the society think otherwise, claiming the decision is wrong and will erase the historical name of the liberation army.

But given that Sudan, the northern neighboring country to South Sudan, is fighting insurgents called SPLM/SPLA-North, maintaining SPLA as the official name of our army was diplomatically insensitive in my view. We are a country and ought to put South Sudan First! Since 2005, a lot of militia have been integrated into the SPLA – proper and many things have happened.

It is better to put SPLA name in national historical achieves and move on as one people. Former militia associated to Khartoum or not, we are all South Sudanese. And as a matter of reality, not theory, SPLA Day, the May 16th has been disappearing. Commemorations for the SPLA Day have not been held on May 16th for whatever reason.

So it is better to shelve the name itself so that supporters have to remember the May 16th without any political prejudice. There is no reason, therefore, to hide our heads in the sand. This was coming.

Even though this change will be confirmed by Cabinet, and now seen as a mere “recommendation” from the Command Council, the fact that we are debating it without state censorship is better. I have no reason to doubt that SPLA is no more. We will adopt SSPDF.

Another important clause in the 40 recommendation points is chain and procedures of promoting officers in the army. This is vital because mushrooming of military ranks is damaging the image of the country.

Dissident politicians form rebel groups and promote militias to high military ranks. Absorbing them into the army has inflated the officers – and our country has the world largest generals – only beaten by the United States by less than ten army generals.

But make no conclusion. Renaming is not enough. A truly reformed army requires much higher decisions. There has to be discipline among the officers and privates. Army officers must be subordinate to civilians leaders and above all, a reformed army must respect Human Rights i.e. cease looting, cease raping, cease abusing pedestrians on roads etc.

When our army barracks become secured and safe for all South Sudanese, that is the dream army. The current recommendations from the command council seem to be heading in the right direction.

© PTA

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address and the country you are writing from.

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