South Sudan's ceasefire monitoring body said that recent and past defections of military officers from the opposition are derailing the implementation of the security arrangement that includes the graduation of the unified forces.
On Friday, Teshome Gemechu Aderie, Chairperson of the Ceasefire Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM), said that the recent splinter within the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A-IO) under First Vice President Riek Machar has disrupted the ongoing plans to pass out the first batch of the 83,000 unified forces, reports Xinhua news agency.
"Such changes of allegiances are damaging the peace process. Therefore, we are seriously monitoring it in order to get any timely updates," Gemechu told journalists in Juba.
On August 4, SPLM/A-IO breakaway faction led by Machar's former chief of staff Simon Gatwech Dual announced that it had deposed the latter from the chairmanship of the party.
Several senior militaries once allied to Machar have since defected to join Dual's group and the South Sudan People's Defense Force (SSPDF) violating the 2018 revitalised peace deal which abhors defections and splits.
The two SPLM/A-IO factions have clashed twice since August in Upper Nile, leaving more than 60 soldiers killed.
"CTSAMVM has been made aware of several changes of allegiance from the SPLM/A-IO to the SSPDF in Upper Nile state which has reportedly resulted in skirmishes in the Mathiang area," said Gemechu.
He disclosed that four senior SPLA-IO commanders have crossed over to the SSPDF in the past few weeks.
Gemechu called upon the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) that mediated the 2018 revitalised peace deal, and the Revitalized Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) that monitors the peace deal to engage the parties to stop military defections.
"CTSAMVM has been monitoring the situation in the Magenis area as closely as possible, and calls on both factions of the SPLM/A-IO to refrain from any further violence," he said.
Defections have been persistent throughout the more than six years of conflict that broke out in December 2013.
Graduation of the 83,000 unified forces is critical for security during the ongoing transitional period.
President Salva Kiir during his independence address in July this year promised the graduation of the first batch of 53,000 unified forces but this is yet to take place.