South Sudan president retires over 100 army generals

Updated 18 February 2013
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South Sudan president retires over 100 army generals

JUBA: South Sudan has retired over 100 generals as part of a sweeping restructuring of the former rebel force, in a move partly aimed at demilitarising the fledgling nation’s government, officials said Monday.
The presidential decree to retire 117 generals follows similar orders last month for 35 other generals and all six deputy army chiefs of staff.
“They all finished their time in the military service so they are retired but are paid...There must be new blood to come up for a change, because we are a new nation at last,” army spokesman Kella Kueth told AFP.
South Sudan won independence from former civil war foe Sudan in July 2011, facing a raft of challenges to rebuild the conflict-ravaged nation, including turning a bloated guerrilla army of some 200,000 troops into a regular force.
The army absorbed several former rival rebel factions — some once acting as proxy forces for Sudan — as part of peace building efforts, swallowing up large chunks of the impoverished nation’s budget.
Several of the generals now hold government positions, too.
“It is a way of separating the military and civilians, which the army has not been very good at for years. So it’s a positive change,” said one Western diplomat on condition of anonymity.
But with rebel militia forces still operating and a pension system not yet implemented, stripping army commanders of both title and salary would be a dangerous move.
“This is about cleaning up the administration and professionalyzing the army, but it is a delicate process and has to be done slowly,” Matthew LeRiche, an academic and expert on the former South Sudanese rebel force said.


UN Security Council meets over Syria in remote Swedish farmhouse

Updated 14 min 19 sec ago
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UN Security Council meets over Syria in remote Swedish farmhouse

BACKARA- SWEDEN: The UN Security Council met in a secluded farmhouse on the southern tip of Sweden on Saturday in a bid to overcome deep divisions over how to end the war in Syria.
In a first for the Council, which normally holds its annual brainstorming session in upstate New York, the 15 ambassadors and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres were this year invited to hold an informal meeting in Backakra by Sweden, a non-permanent member of the body.
The United Nations’ special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is expected on Sunday.
The farmhouse is the summer residence of Dag Hammarskjold, the United Nations’ second secretary-general who died in a plane crash in Africa in 1961.
Situated in the heart of a nature reserve, just a stone’s throw from the Baltic Sea, the farmhouse consists of four buildings around a courtyard and has been completely renovated in recent years.
The southern wing serves as the summer residence for the Swedish Academy which awards the Nobel Literature Prize.
With both New York and Damascus thousands of kilometers away, the Council is exploring “the means to strengthen and make more effective United Nations peacekeeping missions,” the Swedish government said.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom welcomed the decision to hold the meeting in Sweden, “where there is a long tradition of peaceful conflict prevention and resolution.”
But as she arrived in Backakra on Saturday morning she warned against being too hopeful the Syrian issue would be resolved over the weekend.
“Hopefully there will be some new ideas on the table and I think it’ll be on those tracks: the humanitarian situation, the chemical weapons,” she said.
But “not even the beautiful settings like these can solve all the problems,” the minister added.
The country’s deputy UN Ambassador Carl Skau said the idea was to foster dialogue and “relaunch momentum” with “humility and patience,” a week after the air strikes by France, Britain and the United States against the Syrian regime.
“It’s important for the council’s credibility,” Skau told reporters in New York.
While the war in Syria is not the only topic of the deliberations, it is high up on the agenda because it was an issue that divided council members deeply in recent months.
Skau said Backakra was a “fitting and inspiring venue” to reconnect with the power of diplomacy.
“It’s a place to roll up our sleeves, take off our jackets and ties and come up with some real and meaningful ways forward,” he said.