JUBA, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- Columns of soldiers and police officers marching to martial and band music as President Salva Kiir and his entire cabinet watched on in amusement was the scene on Tuesday at the Dr. John Garang Mausoleum in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.
The military column marked the graduation of the first batch of more than 21,000 unified forces out of the total of 83,000 forces of the transitional unity government.
Amantiel Buong, a 24-year-old national security officer among those who passed out from the Mangala cantonment site, said he was relieved to have finally ended the harsh suffering endured by trainees in the cantonment sites.
"We persevered amid challenges in the three years we have spent at Mangala cantonment site. We faced shortage of food, clean water, medicines and shelter," Buong told Xinhua.
The unified forces are police, army, national security, and wildlife and prison services. Buong said he is lucky to be part of the graduates who will now take charge of security during the ongoing transitional period.
The graduation of the first batch was initially supposed to have been in August last year.
Amos Abiel, a police graduate from Rajaf training center, said the passing out of the first batch of security forces marked a major milestone in the implementation of the once sticky security arrangements. "I am very hopeful that our country will experience stability and development since the most difficult part of the peace agreement is now realized," Abiel said.
The Reconstituted Joint Monitoring Evaluation Commission (R-JMEC) that monitors the 2018 revitalized peace agreement previously blamed the lack of necessary political will and funds for the delay in the graduation of the forces.
The lack of food, medicines, clean water and shelter amid intermittent fighting among government and opposition forces forced a number of security personnel in the past to flee cantonment and training centers.
Nema Dugolous, a 30-year-old wheat trader in Juba, said the graduation of the unified forces is a sign of positive progress toward peace and improved security in the country.
"We have been waiting for a long time to have a national army that represents all 64 tribes of South Sudan, we have been suffering from insecurity caused by inter-communal violence," Dugolous said.
"I want the government to cater for the welfare of soldiers, train them to be professional in order for the army to be trusted by citizens. We need forces that can protect the sovereignty and integrity of our country," Dugolous added.
Pitia John, a law student at the University of Juba called on the transitional government to also complete the implementation of pending critical tasks such as institutional, economic, and constitutional reforms.
"I call on our government to fully implement the agreement since the most difficult part is now done, we expect implementation of institutional reforms and constitutional review process," John said.